Experimental geosciences, the subsurface under the microscope

Scientist in lab using test tubes to test with black liquids

What are experimental geosciences?

Most of the data used to study the subsoil is indirect in nature: it gives us a representation of the subsoil filtered by the technologies used to acquire the data (well logs and seismic).

Whenever possible, however, physical samples of rock or fluids are acquired, extracted at selected points defined by preliminary studies which, through laboratory analyses, allow us a direct analysis of subsoil characteristics. Rock samples are used, for example, to define their age, thanks to analyses performed with an optical microscope, or to define their mineralogical composition, porosity, permeability and mechanical properties, through analyses with an optical, electronic microscope, or through other particularly sophisticated technologies. To carry out these activities in the best possible way, our laboratories have been provided with increasingly advanced skills and instrumentation in experimental geosciences.

In particular, we use a special triaxial device capable of performing complete geomechanical analyses on rock samples with dimensions of around a centimetre. Further investigations are carried out by an X-ray microtomograph and electron microscopes.  

Main features

Carbon management
Carbon management
Oil & Gas
Oil & Gas

Industrial production

Natural gas and other hydrocarbons

Carbon management

What are they for

The core drilling technique takes its name from the so-called cores, cylindrical sections of rock collected during subsoil survey stages. Through this method, we are able to trace the age of underground rock formations, study their composition, porosity and permeability, as well as reconstruct the ancient environments in which the deposition of organic matter that gave rise to hydrocarbons took place or in which sedimentary deposits were formed and became reservoirs. In addition to this type of analysis, we also study small rock samples, again derived from surveys. In this way, we can obtain more geological information and consequently optimise exploration activities.

How do they work

We have upgraded the traditional core drilling technique with highly sophisticated analysis tools, such as innovative triaxial cells and X-ray microtomography. With these instruments, our laboratories are able to perform complete geomechanical analyses on rock samples in the centimetre range. The triaxial device we have is one of only three in the world. The comprehensive characterisation protocol that we obtain in terms of elastic properties, acoustics, deformation parameters and compressibility is useful to then study production, mining prediction and control, deposit simulation and evaluation of the structural stability of pits and reservoir-rock. Another tool for analysing small samples is the X-ray microtomograph, a state-of-the-art machine which we can use to obtain high-resolution 3D images describing rock porosity and permeability. All this information is complementary to each other and is supplemented with images collected by electron microscope (SEM).

Features and performance

The large amount of data collected in our laboratories is sent to our HPC supercomputers where, thanks to special calculation algorithms developed by Eni’s researchers, the different information is processed and combined. 

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