Lingyun Kong

Date of Award

January 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Petroleum Engineering

First Advisor

Mehdi Ostadhassan


The petrophysical and geomechanical properties of rocks link the geology origin with engineering practice, which serves as the fundamental of various disciplinaries associated with subsurface porous media, including civil engineering, underground water, geological exploration, and petroleum engineering. The research methodologies can be mainly divided into three aspects: theoretical modelling, numerical simulation, and experiments, in which the last approach plays a critical role that can support, validate, calibrate, or even refute a hypothesis. Only replying on repeatable trials and consolidate analysis of precise results can the experiments be successful and convincing, though uncertainties, due to multiple factors, need to be scrutinized and controlled. The challenges also existed in the characterization and measurements of rock properties as a result of heterogeneity and anisotropy as well as the inevitable impact of experimental operation. 3D printing, a cutting-edge technology, was introduced and utilized in the study that is supposed to be capable of controlling the mineralogy, microstructure, physical properties of physical rock replicas and further benefit the petrophysical and geomechanical experimental methodologies.

My PhD research project attempted to answer the questions from the standpoint of petrophysicisits and geomechanics scientist: Can 3D printed rocks replicate natural rocks in terms of microstructure, petrophysical and geomechanical properties? If not, by any means can we improve the quality of replicas to mimic the common rock types? Which 3D printing method is best suitable for our research purposes? How could it be applied in the conventional experiments and integrated with theoretical calculation or numerical simulation?

Three main types of printing materials and techniques (gypsum, silica sand, resin) were characterized first individually, which demonstrated varying microstructure, anisotropy, petrophysical and geomechanical properties. Post-processing effect was examined on the 3D printed gypsum rocks that show impact differences on nanoscale and microscale pore structures. Through comparison, resin, the material used in stereolithography technology, best suits the reconstruction of intricate pore network that aims to complement digital rock physics and ultimately be applied in petrophysical research. Gypsum material, however, has been proved as the best candidate for geomechanical research spanning from reference samples to upscaling methods validation. Currently, a practical approach of utilizing 3D printing in petroleum geoscience is taking advantages of the characteristics we focus on the research while disregarding the other properties, by which a suitable 3D printing material and technique can emerge.