Multi-Scale Rock Physics of Unconventional and Carbonate Reservoirs

Zoya Heidari


The University of Texas at Austin Multi-scale Rock Physics Research Group focuses on developing advanced methods and workflows for integrating multi-scale formation data (i.e., measured physical properties of rock-fluid systems in different scales) to enhance reservoir characterization and recovery factors in challenging formations. Examples of such formations include spatially heterogeneous, tight, unconventional (e.g., organic-rich mudrocks), and carbonate formations. The term unconventional refers to formations with complex pore/matrix structure and composition, where conventional rock physics methods fail to perform reliably. We jointly analyze the outcomes from experimental data, analytical rock physics model development, and numerical modeling to evaluate static and dynamic formation properties for reliable characterization of challenging reservoirs, with the intent to enhance production and recovery factors. The long-term objectives of this research program include:

Objective 1: To develop (a) new laboratory measurement techniques and (b) new interpretation, analytical, and computational methods to characterize complex rocks such as spatially heterogeneous, tight, unconventional, and carbonate formations using NMR, multi-frequency electrical, and other measurements,

Objective 2: To develop rock physics methods, algorithms, and workflows for integrating multi-scale formation data in a format that can be directly and easily used in the petroleum industry to solve challenging problems in formation evaluation and reservoir characterization of formations with unconventional and complex rock physics, and

Objective 3: To train professional petrophysicists, rock physicists, and petroleum engineers for the future of the petroleum industry and potential scientists for academia.

Faculty Supervisor

Zoya Heidari 

Research Staff

Learn more about our researchers and staff

Major Projects List

The following list of general topics includes our suggestions for the research pathway we take in the upcoming years. We have had ongoing progress on many of these general topics as described in our publications and reports. The number of projects that we will work on during the upcoming academic year will depend on the number of industry members supporting our research program. We prioritize the projects which are of interest to our industry members.

  • Develop Advanced Core Analysis Techniques
    • We perform laboratory experiments as well as numerical simulations for better understanding rock physics in spatially heterogeneous, tight, and unconventional reservoirs. The three long-term objectives we pursue in our experimental projects are as follows:
    • Goal 1:   To improve the interpretation of the available core measurement techniques,
    • Goal 2:   To provide algorithms for reliable petrophysical evaluation of complex reservoirs based on core measurements, and
    • Goal 3:   To develop new core measurement techniques applicable to unconventional, spatially heterogeneous and/or tight rocks.
    • The term unconventional refers to formations with complex pore/matrix structure and composition, where conventional rock physics interpretation and measurement methods fail to perform reliably, such as organic-rich mudrocks, complex carbonate formations and unconventional reservoirs including tight-gas sand, coal-bed methane, and naturally fractured reservoirs.
  • Develop New Methods for Rock Fabric Quantification (i.e., Spatial Distribution of Solid and Fluid Rock Components) using (a) Multi-Scale Imaging and (b) Multi-Physics Data Analysis (e.g., Joint Interpretation of NMR and Electromagnetic Measurements)
    • Quantify the Effects of Rock Fabric on Physical Properties (e.g., Electrical and Mechanical Properties) of Formations with Complex Rock Physics (e.g., Organic-Rich Mudrocks and Carbonates)
    • Develop Rock Physics Models Assimilating Realistic and Quantitative Rock Fabric
    • Develop Upscaling Techniques Honoring Multi-Scale Rock Fabric for Improved Formation Evaluation of Spatially Heterogeneous Formations
  • Develop New Rock Physics Models Honoring Geochemistry of the Formation
  • Develop New Rock Physics Models for Enhanced Interpretation of Borehole Electrical Conductivity and Multi-Frequency Dielectric Measurements in Formations with Complex Rock Physics such as Organic-Rich Mudrocks and Carbonates: Numerical/Analytical Modeling and Core-Scale Experimental Analysis
  • Develop New Methods for Reliable Interpretation of Dielectric Dispersion Measurements
  • Develop Advanced Computational Techniques for Reliable Pore-Scale Modeling of Rock Physics Properties for the Purpose of Reliable Physics-Based Calibration, Model Development, and Data Interpretation
  • Develop New Methods for Assessment of Hydrocarbon Reserves in Organic-Rich Mudrocks and Formations with Complex Pore Geometry such as Carbonates
    • Develop Experimental and Analytical Methods for Assessment Model Parameters
  • Develop New Multi-Physics Methods for Real-Time and In-situ Assessment of Permeability Tensors, Capillary Pressure, Relative Permeability, and Pore-Throat-Size Distribution in Formations with Complex Pore Structure
  • Quantify Dynamic Petrophysical Properties (e.g., Saturation-Dependent Relative Permeability and Capillary Pressure) of Complex and Tight Formations: Computational and Experimental Method Development
  • Develop New Methods for Wettability Assessment, Monitoring, and Control
  • Develop New Methods for Reliable Assessment and Modification of Cation Exchange Capacity and Electrochemical Interfacial Properties
  • Quantify the Impacts of Rock Fabric, Pore Structure, Geochemistry, Pore Pressure, and Dynamic Fluid Flow on Mechanical Properties (e.g., Effective Elastic Properties, Brittleness) and Fracture Propagation in Complex Formations
  • Develop New Methods for Real-Time and In-situ Fluid Characterization
  • Completion Petrophysics is one of the areas we have eagerly invested on and plan to expand. Some of our ongoing projects in the field of completion petrophysics are listed as follows:
    • Develop New methods for Reliable Assessment of Water Production in Organic-Rich Mudrocks
    • Develop New Methods for Reliable Assessment of Fracture Propagation in Spatially Heterogeneous Formations
  • Develop Advanced Data-Driven Frameworks and Machine Learning Algorithms for Interpretation of Multi-Scale Formation Data with the intent to enhance Reservoir Characterization, production, and recovery factors

Member Companies

Subsurface Applications

Reservoir Characterization

Completion Petrophysics

Formation Evaluation

Production Enhancement and Decision

Enhanced Hydrocarbon Recovery

Technical Disciplines

Petrophysics/Formation Evaluation

Computational Sciences

Geomechanics/Rock Mechanics

Data Analytics and Machine Learning

Production Engineering

Engineering Tools

Large Scale Simulation

Pore-scale simulation

Analytical models

Macro-scale experiments

Fluid analysis

Software Development / Deployment

Design of Experiments / Uncertainty Quantification

Subsurface Visualization and Interpretation