The Local Analysis of Changing Force Balances in Immiscible Incompressible Two-Phase Flow

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The balance of viscous, capillary and gravity forces strongly affects two-phase flow through porous media and can therefore influence the choice of appropriate methods for numerical simulation and upscaling. A strict separation of the effects of these various forces is not possible due to the nature of the nonlinear coupling between the various terms in the transport equations. However, approximate prediction of this force balance is often made by calculation of dimensionless quantities such as capillary and gravity numbers. We present an improved method for the numerical analysis of simulations which recognises the changing balance of forces - in both space and time - in a given domain. The classical two-phase transport equations for immiscible incompressible flow are expressed in two forms: (i) the convection-diffusion-gravity (CDG) formulation where convection and diffusion represent viscous and capillary effects, respectively, (ii) the oil pressure formulation where the viscous effects are attributed to the product of mobility difference and the oil pressure gradient. Each formulation provides a different perspective on the balance of forces although the two forms are equivalent. By discretising the different formulations, the effect of each force on the rate of change of water saturation can be calculated for each cell, and this can be analysed visually using a ternary force diagram. The methods have been applied to several simple models, and the results are presented here. When model parameters are varied to determine sensitivity of the estimators for the balance of forces, the CDG formulation agrees qualitatively with what is expected from physical intuition. However, the oil pressure formulation is dominated by the steady-state solution and cannot be used accurately. In addition to providing a physical method of visualising the relative magnitudes of the viscous, gravity and capillary forces, the local force balance may be used to guide our choice of upscaling method.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-88
Number of pages26
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2001


  • Analysis
  • Balance
  • Forces
  • Simulation
  • Two-phase flow
  • Upscaling


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