Scaling analysis of coupled compaction, kerogen conversion, and petroleum expulsion during geological maturation

Qingwang Yuan, Yashar Mehmani, Alan K. Burnham, Alexandre Lapene, Johannes Wendebourg, Hamdi A. Tchelepi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Porosity is an important property of source rocks with implications on petroleum storage and expulsion. The evolution of porosity over geologic time-scales is controlled by coupled processes such as compaction, geothermal heating, kerogen kinetics, and fluid flow. Basin-scale models used to predict the evolution of porosity contain a large number of interdependent parameters. This poses a significant challenge on numerically solving the complex system of equations in field-scale simulators as well as quantifying the uncertainty induced by each parameter. Our objective is to identify the dominant mechanisms that control porosity evolution using scaling analysis. We develop a single-cell model that, despite simplifications, captures all important processes driving the physics, e.g., thermal, mechanical, chemical, sorption, and multi-phase flow. We then identify a minimum set of dimensionless numbers, each associated with a term in the governing equations, that have first-order impact on porosity evolution during primary and secondary cracking of kerogen. The insights here can be used to reduce the dimensionality of basin-scale models and to quantify uncertainty.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107285
JournalJournal of Petroleum Science and Engineering
StatePublished - Sep 2020


  • Hydrocarbon expulsion
  • Porosity evolution
  • Relative importance
  • Scaling analysis
  • Source rocks
  • Uncertainty analysis


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