A suite of shale samples from the Lower Cambrian Niutitang Formation in northwestern Hunan Province, China, were investigated to better understand the pore structure and fractal characteristics of marine shale. Organic geochemistry, mineralogy by X-ray diffraction, porosity, permeability, mercury intrusion and nitrogen adsorption and methane adsorption experiments were conducted for each sample. Fractal dimension D was obtained from the nitrogen adsorption data using the fractal Frenkel-Halsey-Hill (FHH) model. The relationships between total organic carbon (TOC) content, mineral compositions, pore structure parameters and fractal dimension are discussed, along with the contributions of fractal dimension to shale gas reservoir evaluation. Analysis of the results showed that Niutitang shale samples featured high TOC content (2.51% on average), high thermal maturity (3.0% on average), low permeability and complex pore structures, which are highly fractal. TOC content and mineral compositions are two major factors affecting pore structure but they have different impacts on the fractal dimension. Shale samples with higher TOC content had a larger specific surface area (SSA), pore volume (PV) and fractal dimension, which enhanced the heterogeneity of the pore structure. Quartz content had a relatively weak influence on shale pore structure, whereas SSA, PV and fractal dimension decreased with increasing clay mineral content. Shale with a higher clay content weakened pore structure heterogeneity. The permeability and Langmuir volume of methane adsorption were affected by fractal dimension. Shale samples with higher fractal dimension had higher adsorption capacity but lower permeability, which is favorable for shale gas adsorption but adverse to shale gas seepage and diffusion.
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