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Pore-scale dynamics and the multiphase Darcy law

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevFluids.5.013801 DOI Help

Authors: Ying Gao (Imperial College London) , Qingyang Lin (Imperial College London) , Branko Bijeljic (Imperial College London) , Martin J. Blunt (Imperial College London)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Physical Review Fluids , VOL 5

State: Published (Approved)
Published: January 2020

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: Synchrotron x-ray microtomography combined with sensitive pressure differential measurements were used to study flow during steady-state injection of equal volume fractions of two immiscible fluids of similar viscosity through a 57-mm-long porous sandstone sample for a wide range of flow rates. We found three flow regimes. (1) At low capillary numbers, Ca, representing the balance of viscous to capillary forces, the pressure gradient, ∇ P , across the sample was stable and proportional to the flow rate (total Darcy flux) q t (and hence capillary number), confirming the traditional conceptual picture of fixed multiphase flow pathways in porous media. (2) Beyond Ca ∗ ≈ 10 − 6 , pressure fluctuations were observed, while retaining a linear dependence between flow rate and pressure gradient for the same fractional flow. (3) Above a critical value Ca > Ca i ≈ 10 − 5 we observed a power-law dependence with ∇ P ∼ q a t with a ≈ 0.6 associated with rapid fluctuations of the pressure differential of a magnitude equal to the capillary pressure. At the pore scale a transient or intermittent occupancy of portions of the pore space was captured, where locally flow paths were opened to increase the conductivity of the phases. We quantify the amount of this intermittent flow and identify the onset of rapid pore-space rearrangements as the point when the Darcy law becomes nonlinear. We suggest an empirical form of the multiphase Darcy law applicable for all flow rates, consistent with the experimental results.

Journal Keywords: Displacement of immiscible fluids; Flows in porous media; Geophysical fluid dynamics; Imbibition & injection

Subject Areas: Physics


Instruments: I13-2-Diamond Manchester Imaging

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