A PhD on understanding the properties of shale rocks and their ability to hold gases…by Patrick Whitelaw

Hello, my name is Patrick and I have just started my PhD within the Centre for Environmental Geochemistry, between BGS and the University of Nottingham Faculty of Engineering.  My research focuses on understanding the properties of shale rocks and their ability to hold gases specifically methane. Due to the commercial success of the US shale gas industry the UK has become increasingly interested in trying to understand how much gas is generated and stored within our shale reservoirs.  I will be comparing shale rocks matured under high pressure water pyrolysis conditions in the laboratory to natural shale rocks matured under geological conditions to understand gas storage as a function of maturity over geological timescale.

The aims of my research involve determining the ability of shale rocks to hold gas within their pores using high pressure methane isotherms, to characterise these pores using BET surface area measurements, as well as using Rock Eval to determine the ability of the shales to generate hydrocarbons. Together these techniques will allow a better simulation of how deep subsurface shales generate and retain gas, and overall a better estimation of the UK shale gas reserves.

Currently as I have just started I am focusing on becoming familiar with both the equipment I will be using during my PhD, such as Surface Area and Porosity Analysers (for BET calculations) and HPVA (for high pressure methane isotherms)  and high pressure pyrolysis equipment, as well reading the literature related to the subject.

My supervisors for this project are Dr. Chris Vane (BGS), Dr. Clement Uguna (BGS/University of Nottingham) and Professor Colin Snape (University of Nottingham).