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Electron Microscopy Solutions
DualBeam Microscopes

Helios Nanolab 660 for Oil and Gas

Pushing the limits of extreme high-resolution characterization in 2D and 3D

Massive oil reserves exist in unconventional shale and tight sand reservoirs around the world. While horizontal drilling and multistage hydralic fracturing make extraction economically feasible, characterizing shale formations remains a daunting task due to their complex nanoscale pores and mineral structure. The FEI Helios NanoLab™ 660 DualBeam SEM/FIB makes this type of characterization possible. Three-dimensional imaging is a critical tool in the visualization, analysis, and modeling of unconventional reservoirs. This technology, in conjunction with a specialized workflow, computes connected porosity, disconnected porosity, and directional permeability from three-dimensional pore space images.

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FEI's most recent advances in FESEM and FIB technologies

As FEI's 11th DualBeam platform, the Helios NanoLab 660 DualBeam is designed for demanding nanoscale work, resolving the finest details in 2D and 3D with clearest contrast, preparing the thinnest and highest quality samples, and most rapidly creating prototype devices with critical dimensions of only a few nanometers.

Nanoporosity in Shale

Shales have a tendency toward nano porosity and their specialized fractured nature; they behave quite differently than conventional reservoirs, and from one another. Shale grain size is very small: silt sized quartz grains, clay flakes, and organic matter. As a result, the texture, fabric and constituents of oil and gas shale reservoirs containing various pore types in nanometer sizes are very complex. This understanding led to the development of porosity models, enabled by scanning electron microscopy.


One of the most fundamental properties of any reservoir rock, required for modeling hydrocarbon production, is permeability. Using the Helios NanoLab 660 DualBeam SEM/FIB, and specialized 3D reconstruction techniques, it possible to visualize and analyze the extrordinary detail of the pore space in both the mineral and organic matter phases of shale. Segmented FIB-SEM images can then be used as the input for the Stokes flow solver to simulate viscous fluid flow through the rock.

3D pore connection in the organic matter of an eagle ford shale sample.