Archie's law

Archie's law

In petrophysics, Archie's law relates the in-situ electrical conductivity of sedimentary rock to its porosity and brine saturation: :C_t = C_w phi^m S_w^n Here, phi denotes the porosity, C_t the electrical conductivity of the fluid saturated rock, C_w represents the electrical conductivity of the brine, S_w is the brine saturation, m is the cementation exponent of the rock (usually in the range 1.8–2.0), and n is the saturation exponent (usually close to 2).

Reformulated for electrical resistivity, the equation reads:R_t = frac{R_w}{phi^m S_w^n}with R_t for the fluid saturated rock resistivity, and R_w for the brine resistivity.

The factor 1/phi^m is also called formation factor.

It is a purely empirical law attempting to describe ion flow (mostly sodium and chlorine) in clean, consolidated sands, with varying intergranular porosity. Electrical conduction is assumed not to be present within the rock grains or in fluids other than water.

Cementation exponent, m

The cementation exponent models how much the pore network increases the resistivity, as the rock itself is assumed to be non-conductive. If the pore network were to be modelled as a set of parallel capillary tubes, a cross-section area average of the rock's resistivity would yield porosity dependence equivalent to a a cementation exponent of 1. However, the tortuosity of the rock increases this to a higher number than 1. This relates the cementation exponent to the permeability of the rock, increasing permeability decreases the cementation exponent.

The exponent m has been observed near 1.3 for unconsolidated sands, and is believed to increase with cementation. Common values for this cementation exponent for consolidated sandstones are 1.8 < m < 2.0.

The formation factor 1/phi^m is sometimes modified to a/phi^m [Winsauer, W.O., Shearing, H.M., Jr., Masson, P.H., and Williams, M. 1952. Resistivity of brine saturated sands in relation to pore geometry. AAPG Bull. 36:253-277] where the constant a is meant to correct for variation in compaction, pore structure and grain size. The constant is sometimes denoted "turtuosity factor" or "cementation intercept", and usually falls with 0.6 and 1.

The cementation exponent is usually assumed not to be dependent on temperature.

aturation exponent, n

The saturation exponent n usually is fixed to values close to 2. The saturation exponent models the dependency on the presence of non-conductive fluid (hydrocarbons) in the pore-space, and is related to the wettability of the rock. Water-wet rocks will for low water saturation values maintain a continuous film along the pore walls making the rock conductive, while oil-wet rocks will have discontinuous droplets of water within then pore space, making the rock less conductive.

Measuring the exponents

In petrophysics, the only reliable source for the numerical value of both exponents is experiments on sand plugs from cored wells. The brine conductivity can be measured directly on produced water samples. Alternatively, the brine conductivity and the cementation exponent can also be inferred from downhole electrical conductivity measurements across brine-saturated intervals. For brine-saturated intervals (S_w=1) Archie's law can be written :log{C_t} = log{C_w} + m log{phi},!

Hence, plotting the logarithm of the measured in-situ electrical conductivity against the logarithm of the measured in-situ porosity (a so-called Pickett plot), according to Archie's law a straight-line relationship is expected with slope equal to the cementation exponent m and intercept equal to the logarithm of the in-situ brine conductivity.

ands with clay/Shaly sands

Archie's law postulates that the rock matrix is non-conductive. For sandstone with clay minerals, this assumption is no longer true in general, due to the clay's structure and cation exchange capacity. The Waxman–Smits equation is one model that tries to correct for this.


Archie's law is named after Gus Archie (1907&ndash;1978) who developed this empirical quantitative relationship between porosity, electrical conductivity, and brine saturation of rocks. Archie's law laid the foundation for modern well log interpretation as it relates borehole electrical conductivity measurements to hydrocarbon saturations (which, for fluid saturated rock, equals 1 - S_w).


*Gus Archie: "The Electrical Resistivity Log as an Aid in Determining Some Reservoir Characteristics" (Transactions of AIME, 1942).
* M.H. Rider, The Geological Interpretaion of Well logs (1986)
* Darwin V. Ellis, "Well Logging for Earth Scientists," Elsevier, ISBN 0-444-01180-3, 1987.

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