Diffusion behavior of methane in 3D kerogen models
As global energy demand increases, natural gas recovery from source rocks is attracting considerable attention since recent development in shale extraction techniques has made the recovery process economically viable. Kerogens are thought to play an important role in gas recovery; however, the interactions between trapped shale gas and kerogens remain poorly understood due to the complex, heterogeneous microporous structure of kerogens. This study examines the diffusive behavior of methane molecules in kerogen matrices of different types (Type I, II, and II) and maturity levels (A to D for Type II kerogens) on a molecular scale. Models of each kerogen type were developed using simulated annealing. We employed grand canonical Monte Carlo simulations to predict the methane loadings of the kerogen models and then used equilibrium molecular dynamics simulations to compute the mean square displacement of methane molecules within the kerogen matrices under reservoir-relevant conditions, that is, 365 K and 275 bar. Our results show that methane self-diffusivity exhibits some degree of anisotropy in all kerogen types examined here except for Type I-A kerogens, where diffusion is the fastest and isotropic diffusion is observed. Self-diffusivity appears to correlate positively with pore volume for Type II kerogens, where an increase in diffusivity is observed with increasing maturity. Swelling of the kerogen matrix up to a 3% volume change is also observed upon methane adsorption. The findings contribute to a better understanding of hydrocarbon transport mechanisms in shale and may lead to further development of extraction techniques, fracturing fluids, and recovery predictions.