Journal of Earth Science

, Volume 28, Issue 5, pp 874–887 | Cite as

Spontaneous imbibition of water and determination of effective contact angles in the Eagle Ford Shale Formation using neutron imaging

  • Victoria H. DiStefanoEmail author
  • Michael C. Cheshire
  • Joanna McFarlane
  • Lindsay M. Kolbus
  • Richard E. Hale
  • Edmund Perfect
  • Hassina Z. Bilheux
  • Louis J. Santodonato
  • Daniel S. Hussey
  • David L. Jacobson
  • Jacob M. LaManna
  • Philip R. Bingham
  • Vitaliy Starchenko
  • Lawrence M. Anovitz


Understanding of fundamental processes and prediction of optimal parameters during the horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing process results in economically effective improvement of oil and natural gas extraction. Although modern analytical and computational models can capture fracture growth, there is a lack of experimental data on spontaneous imbibition and wettability in oil and gas reservoirs for the validation of further model development. In this work, we used neutron imaging to measure the spontaneous imbibition of water into fractures of Eagle Ford shale with known geometries and fracture orientations. An analytical solution for a set of nonlinear second-order differential equations was applied to the measured imbibition data to determine effective contact angles. The analytical solution fit the measured imbibition data reasonably well and determined effective contact angles that were slightly higher than static contact angles due to effects of in-situ changes in velocity, surface roughness, and heterogeneity of mineral surfaces on the fracture surface. Additionally, small fracture widths may have retarded imbibition and affected model fits, which suggests that average fracture widths are not satisfactory for modeling imbibition in natural systems.

Key Words

spontaneous imbibition effective contact angle neutron imaging Eagle Ford shale rock fractures 


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This work was supported as part of the Center for Nanoscale Controls on Geologic CO2 (NCGC), an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Basic Energy Sciences (No. DE-AC02-05CH11231). Victoria H. DiStefano acknowledges a graduate fellowship through the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Tennessee. Vitaliy Starchenko was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division. Edmund Perfect’s research was sponsored by the Army Research Laboratory (No. W911NF-16-1-0043). The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the Army Research Laboratory or the U.S. Government. The U.S. government is authorized to reproduce and distribute reprints for government purposes notwithstanding any copyright notation herein. We acknowledge the support of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, U.S. Department of Commerce, in providing the neutron research facilities used in this work. A portion of this research used resources at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE Office of Science User Facility operated by the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. We would also like to thank Andrew Kolbus, Salesforce, Robert Brese, UTK & ORNL, and Xiaojuan Zhu, Office of Information Technology at UTK, for assistance with Python, the Keyence VR-3100, and MATLAB, respectively. The final publication is available at Springer via

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Copyright information

© China University of Geosciences and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Victoria H. DiStefano
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael C. Cheshire
    • 1
  • Joanna McFarlane
    • 3
  • Lindsay M. Kolbus
    • 4
    • 5
  • Richard E. Hale
    • 6
  • Edmund Perfect
    • 7
  • Hassina Z. Bilheux
    • 5
  • Louis J. Santodonato
    • 8
  • Daniel S. Hussey
    • 9
  • David L. Jacobson
    • 9
  • Jacob M. LaManna
    • 9
  • Philip R. Bingham
    • 10
  • Vitaliy Starchenko
    • 1
  • Lawrence M. Anovitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Physical Sciences Directorate, Chemical Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  2. 2.Bredesen CenterUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  3. 3.Energy & Environmental Sciences Directorate, Energy & Transportation Sciences DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  4. 4.STEM Educator, SkatelandIndianapolisUSA
  5. 5.Neutron Sciences Directorate, Chemical and Engineering Materials DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  6. 6.Nuclear Science & Engineering Directorate, Reactor & Nuclear Systems DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  7. 7.Department of Earth and Planetary ScienceUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA
  8. 8.Neutron Sciences Directorate, Instrument and Source DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  9. 9.Physical Measurement LaboratoryNational Institute of Standards and TechnologyGaithersburgUSA
  10. 10.Energy & Environmental Sciences Directorate, Electrical & Electronics Systems Research DivisionOak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA

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