Rock strength evaluation is commonly performed on extracted core samples. The retrieval process of core samples is costly and with high risk, especially in unconventional wells. Besides, mechanical testing carried out on core samples could be time-consuming, particularly for low permeability rocks such as shales. In contrast, tons of shale cuttings are generated and discarded at the end of drilling. Small scale testing, such as instrumented indentation test, could be performed on shale cuttings to obtain the mechanical properties of shale rocks. Unlike core samples, however, the bedding orientation, critical to the definition of mechanical properties of shale cuttings as transversely isotropic material, is indistinguishable on cuttings. A methodology has been developed in the following work to deduce the mechanical properties based on indentation testing of randomly oriented artificial shale cuttings.
Estimation of shale cuttings' elastic constants was carried out using microindentation and constrained inverse algorithm developed based on contact mechanics solutions. Microindentation testing was performed on multiple oriented artificial shale cuttings to obtain the indentation modulus as the function of the unknown bedding orientation. The contact mechanics solutions for both transversely isotropic and anisotropic material were utilized to correlate the indentation modulus to the stiffness tensor components of transversely isotropic shale. An inverse problem was formulated with imposed constraints to identify the mean values of the quantities of interest that best fit the data. The constraints represent the physical information about the bounds on elastic properties as well as a mathematical constraint on the structure of elasticity tensor ensuring the accuracy and robustness of the solutions to this optimization problem. Lastly, Ultrasonic Pulse Velocity (UPV) test was performed to validate the modeling results and good agreement was found between the results of the experimental and modeling efforts and results from UPV tests performed on the same material.
Mechanical properties of shale rocks hold great importance in the design and implementation of drilling and production programs. Retrieval of traditional core samples is known to be expensive and risky as a failure in the recovery process could lead to well abandonment. By using several cuttings with unknown varying bedding orientations, the elastic constants of shales were inferred based on the microindentation testing and the algorithm developed in this work. Successful implementation of this work would allow for a more efficient and economical mechanical characterization of shales.