In well logging applications, nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) is recognized as a powerful tool to differentiate various fluids inside porous media. However, it can be challenging to do so in complex situations, e.g. when fluid peaks overlap with each other. Water-soluble contrast agents, such as MnCl2 or Gd-EDTA, have been proposed for use to accelerate the water relaxation, thus separating the water signal from those of other fluids. Together with these contrast agents, the log-inject-log method is used and the difference between the two logs is attributed to the doped water phase. This application only works with water-based mud. To extend its use to oil-based mud (OBM), it is desirable to find alternatives to water-soluble contrast agents that are compatible with OBM.
In this work, we introduce a new group of doping agents: oil-soluble contrast agents. We selected several iron-based complex compounds that are oil-soluble, and tested and evaluated their effects on oil signal relaxation using a laboratory NMR apparatus. We also tested hydrophobic iron oxide nanoparticles as a contrast agent. The results showed that both the complex compounds and nanoparticles were able to reduce the transverse relaxation time of oil from longer than 2 s to less than 20 ms. To demonstrate their applicability in porous media, we injected doped oil into gas-saturated Berea sandstone and limestone core plugs. With conventional 1D NMR measurements or the use of water-soluble contrast agents, it is not straightforward to discern the gas signal from the OBM signal. Our experiments showed that the gas signal could be easily identified in the presence of doped oil via simple T2 scans. We also performed experiments to demonstrate that the peaks of water and doped oil could be readily differentiated.
The use of oil-soluble doping agents can significantly enhance the contrast of the NMR signals originated from different formation fluids, thus facilitating the fluid typing process. It provides a key alternative to the current water-doping technique. It is particularly advantageous when changing the oil relaxation is desired, such as for eliminating signal interferences from OBM invasion and differentiating heavy oil from clay-bound water. It also provides the possibility of speeding up the logging process by dramatically reducing the oil relaxation time. In addition, they can be employed in the laboratory for various purposes such as water saturation determination and fluid displacement monitoring. These contrast agents can also be of useful when oil-soluble contrast agents are desired in other fields, such as medical imaging applications.