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Understanding Shale Rock in a Revolutionary Nanotechnology Way

The AURIGA® CrossBeam® FIB-SEM workstation, recently introduced by Carl Zeiss, now has demonstrated the ability to improve the analysis of shale rock's porosity and permeability. This is done in order to more accurately predict the shale's suitability for the commercial extraction of oil or gas.

Houston-based Ingrain, a provider of digital rock physics services to oil and gas companies around the world, is now using an AURIGA CrossBeam workstation to generate high resolution 3D images. These are used to create the company's vRock™ digital reservoir rock—a complete digital capture of the actual fabric of the original rock sample. Ingrain then uses proprietary simulation technologies to analyze the samples for fluid flow. According to Henrique Tono, Ingrain CEO, “We have significantly advanced our capabilities—especially for the analysis of shale rock—by integrating the unique Carl Zeiss AURIGA instrument into our analytical processes. As a result, our customers, who are world leaders in oil and gas exploration, can now get more detailed, more accurate rock properties analyses. In essence, we are now able to provide more accurate, more complete information to support their decision making needs.”

The AURIGA CrossBeam workstation integrates a focused ion beam (FIB) system and a scanning electron microscope (SEM) in one powerful instrument. The FIB system acts like a Nanoscale scalpel to remove very thin slices of material from a sample—like shale rock—while the SEM provides extraordinary, high resolution images of the rock's structure, revealing and distinguishing between voids and minerals. The AURIGA FIB/SEM fully automates these functions to produce consecutive image slices as thin as 5 nm, which can be reconstructed to form a 3-D image of the rock.

The very heart of the AURIGA CrossBeam workstation is the proven GEMINI® FE-SEM column. Its special in-lens Energy-selected Backscatter (EsB) detector generates images with superior materials contrast. Another important feature unique to CrossBeam workstations is simultaneous milling and high-resolution SEM imaging.

The AURIGA CrossBeam workstation also has a newly designed vacuum chamber, which includes a total of 15 ports for full analytical flexibility. An unrivaled charge compensation system enables the local application of an inert gas flush. In this way, charge build-up on non-conductive samples, such as shale, is neutralized and detection of secondary electrons (SE) as well as backscattered electrons (BSE) becomes feasible.

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