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Supercritical methane adsorption and storage in pores in shales and isolated kerogens

Lookup NU author(s): Thomas Rexer, Eliza Mathia, Professor Andrew Aplin, Emeritus Professor Mark ThomasORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Shale gas is an important hydrocarbon resource in a global context. It has had a significant impact on energy resources in the US, but the worldwide development of this methane resource requires further research to increase the understanding of the relationship of shale structural characteristics to methane storage capacity. In this study a range of gas adsorption, microscopic, mercury injection capillary pressure porosimetry and pycnometry techniques were used to characterize the full range of porosity in a series of shales of different thermal maturity. Supercritical methane adsorption methods for shale under conditions which simulate geological conditions (up to 473 K and 15 MPa) were developed. These methods were used to measure the methane adsorption isotherms of Posidonia shales where the kerogen maturity ranged from immature, through oil window, to gas window. Subcritical methane and carbon dioxide adsorption studies were used for determining pore structure characteristics of the shales. Mercury injection capillary pressure porosimetry was used to characterize the meso and macro porosity of shales. The sum of the CO2 sorption pore volume at 195 K and mercury injection capillary pressure pore volumes (1093–5.6 nm) were equal to the corresponding total pore volume (< 1093 nm) thereby giving an equation accounting for virtually all the available shale porosity. These measurements allowed quantification of all the available porosity in shales and were used for estimating the contributions of methane stored as ‘free’ compressed gas and as adsorbed gas to overall methane storage capacity of shales. Both the mineral and kerogen components of shale were studied by comparing shale and the corresponding isolated kerogens so that the relative contributions of these components could be assessed. The results show that the methane adsorption characteristics were much higher for the kerogens and represented 35–60% of the total adsorption capacity for the shales used in this study, which had total organic contents in range 5.8–10.9 wt%. Microscopy studies revealed that the pore systems in clay-rich, organic-rich and microfossil-rich parts of shale are very different, and also the importance of the inter-granular organic-mineral interface.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Rexer TF, Mathia EJ, Aplin AC, Thomas M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: SN Applied Sciences

Year: 2020

Volume: 2

Online publication date: 31/03/2020

Acceptance date: 13/03/2020

Date deposited: 30/11/2020

ISSN (print): 2523-3963

ISSN (electronic): 2523-3971

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s42452-020-2517-6


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Funder referenceFunder name
Exxon Mobil