An Analysis of Numerically Induced Pulses in Simulations of Low-Salinity Waterflooding and Their Reduction by Flow Upscaling

Hasan Al-Ibadi, Karl D. Stephen, Eric Mackay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Numerical fidelity is required when using simulations to predict enhanced-oil-recovery (EOR) processes. In this paper, we investigate the conditions that lead to numerical errors when simulating low-salinity (LS) waterflooding (LSWF). We also examine how to achieve more accurate simulation results by scaling up the flow behavior in an effective manner. An implicit finite-difference numerical solver was used to simulate LSWF. The accuracy of the numerical solution has been examined as a function of changing the length of the grid cell and the timestep. Previously we have shown that numerical dispersion induces a physical retardation such that the LS front slows down while the formation water front speeds up. We also report for the first time that pulses can be generated as numerical artifacts in coarsely gridded simulations of LSWF. These effects reflect the interaction of dispersion, the effective-salinity range, and the use of upstream weighting during calculation, and can corrupt predictions of flow behavior. The effect of the size of the timestep was analyzed with respect to the Courant condition, traditionally related to explicit numerical schemes and also numerical stability conditions. We also investigated some of the nonlinear elements of the simulation model, such as the differences between the concentrations of connate water salinity and the injected brine, effective-salinity-concentration range, and the net mobility change on fluids through changing the salinity. We report that to avoid pulses it is necessary, but not sufficient, to meet the Courant condition relating timestep size to cell size. We have also developed two approaches that can be used to scale up simulations of LSWF and tackle the numerical problems. The first method is dependent on a mathematical relationship between the fractional flow, effective-salinity range, and the Péclet number and treats the effective-salinity range as a pseudofunction. The second method establishes an unconventional proxy method equivalent to pseudorelative permeabilities. A single table of pseudorelative permeability data can be used for a waterflood instead of two tables, as is usual for LSWF. This is a novel approach that removes the need for relative permeability interpolation during the simulation. Overall, by avoiding numerical errors, we help engineers to more efficiently and accurately assess the potential for improving oil recovery using LSWF and thus optimize field development. We also avoid the numerical pulses inherent in the traditional LSWF model.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)897-917
Number of pages21
JournalSPE Journal
Issue number2
Early online date8 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology


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