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SPE 132361

Flow Quality Indicator (FQI): An Innovative Approach to Permeability


Prediction
Somadina Azuka Akam (Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited), Tom Maher (Shell International
Exploration and Production, Houston, USA), Christiane Schell (Sarawak Shell Bhd, Miri, Malaysia) and Stuart Arnott
(Shell U.K. Limited)

Copyright 2010, Society of Petroleum Engineers

This paper was prepared for presentation at the SPE Asia Pacific Oil & Gas Conference and Exhibition held in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, 18–20 October 2010.

This paper was selected for presentation by an SPE program committee following review of information contained in an abstract submitted by the author(s). Contents of the paper have not been reviewed
by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and are subject to correction by the author(s). The material does not necessarily reflect any position of the Society of Petroleum Engineers, its officers, or
members. Electronic reproduction, distribution, or storage of any part of this paper without the written consent of the Society of Petroleum Engineers is prohibited. Permission to reproduce in print is
restricted to an abstract of not more than 300 words; illustrations may not be copied. The abstract must contain conspicuous acknowledgment of SPE copyright.

Abstract

The Flow Quality Indicator (FQI) is an innovative but simple approach to permeability prediction, developed in response to
modeling and production accounting issues. The FQI theory is that, in its simplest form in a unit reservoir, three parameters, in
combination, determine the flow quality - porosity, volume of impermeable member, Vimp, and the remaining grain volume or
“permeable member”, Vpm. FQI postulates that Vpm must expand or contract with variations in Vimp and porosity. This variation is
demonstrated to be unique property of any reservoir.

By relating FQI to measured core permeability or an independent measure of reservoir quality, the resultant empirical
relationship has been established as a simple predictor of permeability in the absence of core data.

Two empirical model types - quadratic and linear – have been developed from core data in Baram Delta and Sabah (Malaysia).
Results from either type do not show significant differences but the quadratic model has been found more suitable for highly
laminated thin bed clastic environments below log resolution. The linear model has a more general application in most clastic
depositional settings where formation beds are close to log resolution or larger.

The FQI concept has implicit universality, as demonstrated by several successful tests in the Baram Delta (Malaysia), Brunei
and the Niger Delta (Nigeria). Coefficients of the function may be fine-tuned using an FQI modeling tool. However, it has been
shown that only limited fine-tuning is required for most environments.

The FQI approach offers significant advantages compared with alternative models for permeability prediction (such as the
Flow Zone Indicator, FZI), namely: (1) the input variables (Vsh, Φ) can be readily determined from conventional logs; (2)
permeability estimation is quick and comprehensive; and (3) the method is applicable over a wide variety of clastic geological
environments.
2 SPE 132361

Introduction

It is very difficult to predict or model flow dynamics at the subsurface. It is even more daunting to unravel, with any certainty,
all the factors that influence fluid flow through the winding and tortuous paths of the various flow units. Attempts have been and
will continue to be made to explain the various phenomena experienced. Some proposed models are quite basic and simple while
others are associated with a good measure of mathematical complexity.

The Flow Quality Indicator (FQI) concept, which will be described here, falls into the category of very basic. It is in fact not
new. Most Petrophysical Engineers that have worked on permeability prediction would have at some point realized that lithology
plays a major role. This litholothy impact has been viewed from various angles. The outcome (or diagnostic) view uses the
Irreducible water saturation, Swirr, or bound water saturation, Swb (Timur/Coates), or size of pore throat and tortuosity (Flow Zone
Indicator). The “total effect” view seeks to integrate individual contributions of various minerals in the formation (Cozeny-
Carman). Meanwhile, some other frank analysts simply add a lithology measure (such as Vsh) as another variable into a
multivariable analysis.

The Flow Quality Indicator model is an alternative approach to permeability modeling that attempts, for perhaps the first time,
to give a physical meaning to the view point of the frank analyst. It is a simple and practical technique that ignores the end effects
(outcomes) of flow through the reservoir. Rather, it focuses on what creates those outcomes from the perspective of what really
constitutes a unit of reservoir.

The FQI theory postulates that, in a unit of reservoir, three parameters in combination determine the flow quality. These are
porosity, volume of impermeable member, Vimp, and the remaining grain volume or “permeable member”, Vpm. FQI demonstrates
that the change in Vpm due to variations in Vimp and porosity is a unique property that may be used to characterize the flow quality
(hence permeability) of any reservoir.

Background

The Baram Delta Operations (BDO) area, in which the authors worked as a project team, has significant geological and
reservoir challenges. At the time, declining oil production and increasing water cut was the typical business scenario (Figure 1).
This scenario was worsened by little growth due to flat production since last rig activity, unwanted water and gas production, and
loss of reservoir pressure support to drive production.

37500
Oil Rate (CD) ( bbl/d )
30000

22500

15000

7500

0
1975 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 2000 01 02 03 04 05 06

2.0 75
Gas / Oil Ratio ( Mcf/bbl ) All WELLs(335)
1.6 60
Water Cut ( % ) All WELLs(335)
Gas / Oil Ratio ( Mcf/bbl )

Water Cut ( % )

1.2 45

0.8 30

0.4 15

0.0 0
1975 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 2000 01 02 03 04 05 06

Figure 1: Production scenario: Declining oil production, increasing water cut


SPE 132361 3

The project team’s effort to reverse the trend was hampered by data insufficiency to build static and dynamic models and
difficulties in matching historical production and reservoir information. The primary inputs of geological concept and
petrophysical properties were difficult to validate due to the complex reservoir environment. Figure 2 illustrates the nature of the
reservoirs. The Ultra Violet light photos show very thin fluorescent sand streaks within mudstone laminations. The thinness of the
beds further made practical facies classification difficult.

GR WL UV FACIES GR WL UV FACIES

Figure 2: Pay in thinly bedded sands

Historically, significant production has come from these thin-bedded pay zones. Unfortunately, this had also posed huge
petrophysical evaluation challenges. Figure 3 shows a log section that demonstrates the difficulty of petrophysical evaluation.

   

Original Fluid
Interpretation

Final Fluid
Interpretation

•Laminatedshaly
sandsystem
Washout •Low resistivity, low
contrast
•Neutron‐Density 
separation not 
automatic measure 
of hydrocarbon
presence/type.

Figure 3: Petrophysical evaluation challenges


4 SPE 132361

Case for Change: Permeability challenge

The project team reached the conclusion that many of the challenges could be resolved through the interlinked reservoir
properties of permeability and producibility. Meanwhile, conventional porosity-permeability relationship was initially
incorporated in the static models. Permeability was predicted from simple semi-linear regression between core permeability and
porosity (Figure 4). The model is of the general form:

K (mD) = a*EXP(b*Φ)
a, b = constants

XX Field Poro-perm relationship


10000
XX-01 (I-7 Sand)
XX-01 (I-7.5 Sand)
XX-01 (I-8 Sand)
XX-02 (I-7 Sand) (rect. plugs)
Expon. (XX-01 (I-7.5 Sand))
Expon. (XX-01 (I-7 Sand))
Expon. (XX-01 (I-8 Sand))

32.536x
1000 y = 0.0905e
2
R = 0.7233

25.571x
y = 0.3835e
2
R = 0.5939

40.679x
y = 0.0145e
2
R = 0.8494
100
Permeability (md)

34.195x
y = 0.0562e
2
10 R = 0.756

0.1
0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4
Porosity (decimal)

Figure 4: Original permeability prediction from semi-linear regression of core permeability and porosity

However, the pilot dynamic modeling on a reservoir block discovered that permeability from the single poro-perm approach
underestimated actual reservoir permeability. The resulting models could only match historical rates as the permeability was
adjusted upwards (Figure 5).

Oil rates (A) and Cumulative (B)

40 mD 120 mD 800 mD
A

Blue = data

B
Red = model

Average model permeability


Figure 5: Application of conventional Permeability Model
SPE 132361 5

Meanwhile, the negative impact of low permeability estimate (high Sw) was also assessed in the pilot dynamic model. The
under-estimated reservoir permeability was found to affect the resultant water saturation from saturation-height function. The
model revealed that the low case water saturation (higher permeability) results in a higher STOIIP case and subsequently better
match to historical production. (Figure 6).

50

40
640-1280md
High STOIIP Saturation Function (SF). Used
in History Matched (HM) model
Pcow (psi)

30

20
Low STOIIP SF, low production. Unable to match
history
10 CUM Oil Production

0 High-case SF
0.0 0.2 0.4
Sw
0.6 0.8 1.0
HM contacts Low-case SF
High-case contacts

2500

3000 Low-case SF
HM contacts
Depth (ft)

3500

4000
History data in black line (overlain
4500
High-case Sw by Cum Oil for High-case SF)
Low-case 5000
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
Sw Sw Sw (log
data)
Figure 6: Impact of Sw on STOIIP & History Match

The Flow Quality Indicator Concept

Search for Suitable Alternative Permeability


From the foregoing, the need to revisit permeability prediction was revealed. From Figure 4, it was quite evident to the team
that fitting a single regression line to the scatter of core data was an unlikely option. Consequently, attempt was made to segregate
the data and fit individual functions to different sands.

However, in one major field in the BDO area, it was found that there was such significant lithology imprint that the
conventional regression was re-attempted but with individual groups defined by Vsh bands (Figure 7). Distinct Vsh classes were
possible only after ignificant editing/filtering of core data.

Offset Field - All Core Data


Stressed Porosity vs Stressed Permeability Plot Sorted by VSH
10000.00
3.3526
y = 176429.6228x
2
R = 0.6993
3.0397
1000.00 y = 22702.8733x
2
R = 0.5816
2.7654
y = 5529.5106x
2
100.00 R = 0.5567
Air Permeability (MD)

2.6687
y = 1432.7068x
2
R = 0.7099
10.00 1.7853
y = 88.9183x VSH 0-.20
2
R = 0.5107
VSH .20-.30
1.00
VSH .30-.40

VSH .40-.50
0.10
VSH .50-.70

VSH >.70
0.01
0 0.05 0.1 0.15 0.2 0.25 0.3 0.35 0.4
Porosity (%)

Figure 7: Permeability prediction from Vsh classes methodology


6 SPE 132361

Unfortunately, the method of Vsh classes did not succeed everywhere in Baram Delta fields even after filtering core data of any
possible outliers. However, by this time, it had become evident that a viable permeability model should include both a measure of
lithology effect (such as Vsh) and porosity.

Other observations on raw core data (Figures 8, 9) show that lower Vsh results in higher permeability & porosity and vice
versa.

Figure 8: Core Permeability vs Core Porosity, grouped by Vsh classes

Figure 9: Core Permeability vs Vsh, grouped by Core Porosity classes


SPE 132361 7

In addition, it was established that there is a clear interaction between core porosity and Vsh (Figure 10). This implies that in
any shaly sand reservoir, a simple permeability-porosity relationship, based on porosity classes, is inappropriate.

Figure 10: Core Porosity vs Vsh, grouped by Core Permeability classes

The search for a suitable alternative permeability led to the further development and application of the Flow Quality Indicator
principle, a semi-empirical relationship that the Petrophysicist (primary author) conceptualized while working earlier on cores in
the Niger Delta where lithology imprint had been strong.

The FQI Theory


Every permeable rock has interconnected porosity. In general, if the porosity gets larger, the permeability becomes higher.
However, if the pore throat and size become smaller, fluid flow becomes more restricted and tortuous within the reservoir. Shales
are characterized by very small pores, which can add up to a high porosity. They are however impermeable because flow path is
restricted and highly tortuous. It is then inferred that permeability is determined by two main factors: the impermeable matrix
(very small pores) and the pore size (porosity) within the “permeable” matrix.

FQI estimates permeability by recognising that in a unit matrix, the part of the rock that can permit flow is only the permeable
part - the section that contains the connected pores (Figure 11). Therefore if one can subtract out the impermeable part, then the
flow quality indicator relates to the fraction of the “permeable” zone and the size of pores therein available for flow.

Connected
Porosity
Permeable
Matrix

Grain matrix Connected Impermeable


Porosity Matrix
Vimp
Unconnected
Porosity
Impermeable Unconnected
matrix Porosity

Figure 11: The Flow Quality Indicator concept: (a) thin section, (b) exaggerated schematic
8 SPE 132361

Consequenlty, the FQI concept postulates that in a unit reservoir, there are 3 parameters that determine the flow quality: the
porosity, the volume of impermeable member (Vimp) and the remaining grain volume that contains the permeable member (Vpm).
The indicator of flow quality is thus the volume of permeable member, which must expand or contract with variations in Vimp and
porosity. This variation must be a unique property of the reservoir, which characterizes its flow regimes and hence
permeability/producibility.

Methodology
Total porosity, which normally includes non-connected porosity, is what is usually measured on cores and can also be
estimated from the density log.

If Volume of impermeable matrix = Vimp, then:

Volume of “permeable” matrix = 1-Vimp-Φ

Shales and cements are impermeable = Vimp. From the unit matrix perspective, the unconnected porosity in a clasitic
environment = Vcl*Φ. Thus, where clay/shale is the impermeable member:

Vimp = Vcl-Vcl*Φ = Vcl*(1-Φ)

Porosity and Vimp are the only independent variables, which can be readily derived from logs. The volume of “permeable”
matrix is therefore the dependent variable that changes with variations in porosity & Vimp. It is therefore the flow quality indicator,
which may be used to predict permeability.

Reservoir Quality Indicator (RQI) is a measure of permeability associated with a specific pore size (k/φ). It is unique to every
rock/reservoir type and can be estimated from core data. FQI is also a unique property of the reservoir. When plotted together, the
profiles of FQI and RQI are similar and almost overlay core permeability (Track 7 in Figure 12). RQI is plotted in the form √(k/φ).

Figure 12: FQI and RQI both overlay Core Permeability (Track 7)
SPE 132361 9

To predict permeability in a continuous manner, FQI establishes a semi-empirical relationship with core data in two forms: the
quadratic and linear.

In the quadratic form, the conventional power relationship for permeability prediction from porosity is of the form:

k(mD) = a*(Φ)^b

If k is replaced by RQI (k/Φ) and Φ by FQI, the relationship becomes:

k/Φ = a*(FQI)^b

In a simple case, b may be assumed = 2. In our test field, the empirical relationship obtained was:

k(mD) = exp((5.596*(1 - Vsh - Φ + (Vsh * Φ)) + 1.595)^2 * Φ)

In the linear form, the logarithm of k was used to bring the variables to the same order of magnitude. Subsequently, a semi-
empirical relationship was obtained from the general equation:

ln(k) = f(FQI)

In our test field, the empirical relationship obtained was:


K(mD) = exp(9.58*(1 - Vsh - Φ + (Vsh * Φ)) + 39.887* Φ - 9.109)

Upon application, it was found that results from the linear and quadratic equations do not show significant differences.
However, the quadratic model appears more suitable to highly laminated thin bed clastic environments below log resolution.
Meanwhile, the linear model has a more general application in most clastic depositional settings where formation beds are close to
log resolution or larger, e.g. the Niger Delta.

Applications of the FQI Concept

Lorenz plot measures how far sampled data capture reservoir heterogeneity. It demonstrates how much of flow capacity is
contained in unit pore volume. Lorenz plots (% flow capacity (k*h) versus storage capacity (Φ*h)) were made for the
conventional poroperm and FQI permeabilities, and compared to core plug data (Figure 13). The plot assesses the degree to which
the FQI model has maintained reservoir heterogeneity. Figure 13 clearly shows that the FQI model is closer to the core plug data
line data and captures reservoir heterogeneity more than the conventional poroperm approach.

Increasing
heterogeneity

Area between curve and diagonal is


the Lorenz coefficient – a measure
of heterogeneity

Figure 13: Lorenz plot showing better capture of reservoir heterogeneity with the Flow Quality Indicator concept
10 SPE 132361

It was also found that applying the FQI concept in the static model achieves greater consistency with well facies than with
original data (Figure 14).

Original Core Data FQI Method

Porosity

Figure 14: Match to Static Model

Meanwhile, the predicted permeability from FQI (Figure 15) was found to be superior to the original permeability from the
simple perm-porosity regression. It was also found to be more appropriate for the static and dynamic models.

Figure 15: Good match to core permeability (Track 7) using the Flow Quality Indicator concept

The updated concept was also tested and successfully applied in other depositional settings in Brunei and Nigeria (Figure 16).
The results show a good match to core data. Quite interestingly, they point to a probable universality of concept to different
geological settings.
SPE 132361 11

Figure 16: Permeability prediction with FQI: (a) Brunei, and (b) Niger Delta

In our test field in the Baram Delta, permeability predicted from the FQI concept, and the subsequent recalculation of
saturation-height function, resulted in very good history match. Consequently, the model was adopted to predict permeability for
other fields in the Baram Delta Operations area. Subsequently, a modeling tool (Figure 17) was developed to finetune the co-
efficients of the model wherever signifant differences are expected, and where core data is also available.

Figure 17: FQI modeling tool – (a) linear and (b) non-linear models

Alternative Permeability models

Alternative methods to estimate permeability were also considered. The Flow Zone Indicator (FZI) model relates permeability
to genetic units/facies (e.g. shoreface (LSF, MSF, USF, etc. for coastal/distributary environment of deposition). One needs to
know the average FZI value for the depositional environment in order to apply it. FZI are discrete values that are estimated from
core data. Prior to that, the geologist would have identified the facies from which the average FZI can be estimated.

The relation is:

Φ3
k = 1014( FZI ) 2
(1 − Φ ) 2
12 SPE 132361

The problems encountered with this approach include the accuracy of interpretation of the environment of deposition by the
geologist, the discreteness of the FZI values which might lump units together in relatively thin-bedded environments, and the fact
that actual field average may be significantly different from the regional average.

Table 1 shows actual differences between calculated FZI from a cored field in the Niger Delta and the Niger Delta average.
The environment of deposition is deltaic/distributary. The implication is that, in the absence of core data, one cannot rely on the
appropriateness of regional FZI values for the field being evaluated.

Facies FZI FZI


(Core) (Average)
Channel Sand 9.3 8.9

Mouth Bar 6.0 4.7

Heteroliths 1.3 1.2

Shales 0.5 0.1

Table 1: Core derived FZI vs. Niger Delta average FZI

Another method, called the modified Kozeny-Carman model, relates permeability to the bulk volume of minerals within the
sand matrix. The relation is:

k (mD) = exp(9.21389 + (3*ln(Φ)) - (2*ln(1- Φ)) + sum_BiVi);

where:
sum_BiVi = (3.324395*quar) - (3.203590*silt) - (13.44*shal)

and

quar, silt, shal = bulk volumes of quartz, silt & shale minerals in sand matrix

Volumes of minerals are obtained from core measurements (intricate and difficult) or from Multimineral analysis (stochastic,
and with associated uncertainties).

From the foregoing, the FQI approach is the easiest in application. The two independent variables of the FQI model – Φ and
Vimp - can easily be derived from log responses and applied to the adopted semi-empirical equation.

Business Value

In Figure 18 (left), the facies classifications were made separately based on core description and neural network classification
(using log data). The Neural Network processing does not fully agree with the core facies description or the UV photos due to the
poor wireline tool vertical resolution. Consequently, an apparent non-reservoir pay was classified as “shale” facie.

However, from the distribution of STOIIP by Facies (Figure 18, right), up to 5% of STOIIP has been evaluated to be contained
in the “shale” facies. This significant value would have been lost if the facies class “shale” were discounted as non-reservoir pay.
Fortunately, the application of the Flow Quality Indicator concept to predict permeability, which in turn was applied to the
reservoir saturation model, helped to retain this value.
SPE 132361 13

Field Model Volumes

50.00% • About 10% of STOIIP from facies usually cut off


45.00% in the conventional Volumetric calculation
40.00% • No cut-offs in current static model
35.00%

30.00%

% of Total
25.00%

20.00%

15.00%

10.00%

5.00%

0.00%
“Shale” Shaly Heterolythics Sandy Heterolythics Sands High Quality Sands

GBV Net Vol Pore Vol STOIIP

Figure 18: FQI reveals significant value in facies originally defined as “Shale”

Advantages of the FQI Concept

From the discussions above, some of the likely advantages of the Flow Quality Indicator concept over other acceptable
approaches to permeability prediction include:

• The concept may be universal to different geological settings once what constitutes volume of impermeable matrix is
known and can be measured.
• Permeability can be estimated in a continuous manner for different genetic/flow units since each unit is associated
with a different flow quality indicator.
• The geologist’s extended effort at determining sedimentary facies for the purpose of permeability prediction is
minimized.
• Permeability prediction can be quick as the independent variables (Vcl, Φ) can be calculated from logs.
• For purposes of geosteering or well placement, permeability can be modelled ahead of the bit using offset data.
• Permeability can also be predicted ahead of a coring job and can help in core acquisition optimization.

Limitations

An important limitation of the FQI concept is its assumption of a closed unit matrix that consists of a determinable pore size
and volume of impermeable member. If the logging tool does not correctly sense, or account for, any of these two key variables,
the accuracy of the predicted permeability will be in doubt.

Furthermore, as illustrated in Fiugures 19 and 20, if the input parameters have not been correctly evaluated, permeability
prediction will be less reliable. For example, in Figure 19, porosity value closer to core porosity gives the best prediction of
permeability. Meanwhile, in Figure 20, poor permeability prediction will result with incorrect Vsh evaluation. In this instance,
more net sand than observed on core has been computed (with significant negative Vsh).

It is therefore important that engineers follow an established/standardized approach in evaluation of key parameters,
particularly in picking end points from input logs to obtain derived logs such as Vsh.
14 SPE 132361

(I) (II)
Based Based
on core on log
porosity porosity

Figure 19: Importance of correct Porosity input

Using VclGR_X Using VclGR


(Poor Vsh (Better Vsh
evaluation) evaluation)

Figure 20: Importance of correct Vcl input

Conclusion

The Flow Quality Indicator concept is a practical and very basic approach to predicting permeability, particularly in the
absence of core data. It estimates permeability by recognising that in a unit matrix, the part of the rock that may permit flow is
only the “permeable” member, which contains the connected pores. The predictive power lies in the fact that the independent
variables are the impermeable fraction and the pore size, both of which can be easily estimated from ordinary logs. In application,
this makes it easier than other acceptable approaches to permeability prediction.

In addition, the FQI approach estimates permeability in a continuous manner for different genetic/flow units. Thus, the
extended effort at determining sedimentary facies is minimized.

Finally, whereas the FQI concept is limited by its assumption of a closed unit matrix, consisting of a determinable pore size
and volume of an impermeable member, it is recommended that engineers follow a standardized approach in evaluation of input
parameters in order to obtain best results.
SPE 132361 15

Look-ahead

The authors hope that the value of the FQI approach will be recognized as it is being tested and finetuned with additional core
data from other regions. Consequently, the applicability of the concept in different depositional environments, including
carbonates, will be tested. Moreover, we do hope that sufficient interest will be generated to attract the interest of reservoir
characterization experts to challenge, improve on or further the concept.

Acknowledgments

The authors wish to thank the management of Sarawak Shell Berhard, Malaysia, and Shell Petroleum Development Company
of Nigeria for permission to publish and present this paper. Also, we acknowledge the geological contributions provided by Ken
Goring (Sarawak Shell Bhd, Miri, Malaysia) and Peter Duindam (Shell International Exploration and Production, Holland). Many
thanks also go to Liu Jianchun (Shell Exploration & Production Company, SEPCO, USA) for contributions to the pilot dynamic
modelling and to Michel Prest (Brunei Shell Petroleum Co Sdn Bhd) for testing the model in the Brunei environment.

Finally, we specially extend our appreciation to various persons in Malaysia and Nigeria that supported or contributed to the
work that led to this paper, in particular Chike Nwosu (Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company Ltd, SNEPCO) who
first suggested testing the model with Lorenz plots.

References

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SPE131502-PP, IOGCE, Beijing, China, June 2010
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SPE38679
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properties”, Log Analyst, May-June 1979.
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data”, SPWLA, 22nd Annual Logging Symposium, June 23-26, 1981.
5. Schlumberger Log Interpretation Principles & Applications, 1989
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