A fractal permeability model for shale gas flow through heterogeneous matrix systems

Lidong Geng, Gensheng Li*, Pacelli Zitha, Shouceng Tian, Mao Sheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


Natural gas flow in shale matrices consisting of both organic and inorganic components was modeled using fractal concepts. The expression of the apparent permeability (AP) of such shale systems was derived following three main steps: (a) modeling real gas flow in a single pore by generalizing our previously reported Extended Navier-Stokes Equations method, then (b) using fractal theory concepts to obtain the apparent permeability for both the organic and inorganic-matter cells, and finally (c) upscaling the AP model to the sample scale, accounting for the heterogeneous distribution of the organic matter. The up-scaled AP model is more realistic, because it considers not only the varying cross-section shapes and tortuosity of the pores, but also the characteristic flow mechanisms and multi-scale pore size distribution in heterogeneous shale matrix systems. The model was successfully validated with experimental data from real samples. The effects of the organic matter and shape of the pores on the AP are investigated. The sensitivity of the AP to the total organic carbon (TOC), porosity, pore shape, and structural parameters of both organic and inorganic systems is studied. The results indicated that the AP would be overestimated by up to 24.1% if the characteristics of the organic matrix are ignored, and the AP proves more sensitive to the effect of the pore shape in the inorganic matrix. In addition, the top three key parameters affecting the AP are pore shape, maximum pore diameter in the inorganic matrix, and porosity. The AP is more sensitive to the pore size within the inorganic matrix than within the organic matter. The proposed model provides some theoretical and technical support for shale gas simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-604
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Natural Gas Science and Engineering
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016


  • Fractal
  • Heterogeneous
  • Shale gas
  • Shale matrix


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