Dynamic pore-scale network model (PNM) of water imbibition in porous media

Juan Li, Steven Robert McDougall, Kenneth Stuart Sorbie

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A dynamic pore-scale network model is presented which simulates 2-phase oil/water displacement during water imbibition by explicitly modelling intra-pore dynamic bulk and film flows using a simple local model. A new dynamic switching parameter, λ, is proposed within this model which is able to simulate the competition between local capillary forces and viscous forces over a very wide range of flow conditions. This quantity (λ) determines the primary pore filling mechanism during imbibition; i.e. whether the dominant force is (i) piston-like displacement under viscous forces, (ii) film swelling/collapse and snap-off due to capillary forces, or (iii) some intermediate local combination of both mechanisms.
A series of 2D dynamic pore network simulations is presented which shows that the λ-model can satisfactorily reproduce and explain different filling regimes of water imbibition over a wide range of capillary numbers (Ca) and viscosity ratios (M). These imbibition regimes are more complex than those presented under drainage by (Lenormand et al. (1983)), since they are determined by a wider group of control parameters. Our simulations show that there is a coupling between viscous and capillary forces that is much less important in drainage. The effects of viscosity ratio during imbibition are apparent even under conditions of very slow flow (low Ca)–displacements that would normally be expected to be completely capillary dominated. This occurs as a result of the wetting films having a much greater relative mobility in the higher M cases (e.g. M = 10) thus leading to a higher level of film swelling/snap-off, resulting in local oil cluster bypassing and trapping, and hence a poorer oil recovery. This deeper coupled viscous mechanism is the underlying reason why the microscopic displacement efficiency is lower for higher M cases in water imbibition processes.
Additional results are presented from the dynamic model on the corresponding effluent fractional flows (fw) and global pressure drops (ΔP) as functions of capillary number and viscosity ratio. These results indicate that unsteady-state (USS) relatively permeabilities in imbibition should be inherently rate dependent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-211
Number of pages21
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Early online date27 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


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