Direct Numerical Simulation of Flow on Pore-Scale Images Using the Phase-Field Method

Frank, Florian (Rice University) | Liu, Chen (Rice University) | Alpak, Faruk O. (Shell International Exploration and Production) | Berg, Steffen (Rice University) | Riviere, Beatrice (Shell Global Solutions International)

OnePetro 

Summary

Advances in pore-scale imaging, increasing availability of computational resources, and developments in numerical algorithms have started rendering direct pore-scale numerical simulations of multiphase flow on pore structures feasible. In this paper, we describe a two-phase-flow simulator that solves mass- and momentum-balance equations valid at the pore scale (i.e., at scales where the Darcy velocity homogenization starts to break down). The simulator is one of the key components of a molecule-to-reservoir truly multiscale modeling work flow.

A Helmholtz free-energy-driven, thermodynamically based diffuse-interface/phase-field method is used for the effective simulation of numerous advecting interfaces, while honoring the interfacial tension (IFT). The advective Cahn-Hilliard (CH) (mass-balance, energy dissipation) and Navier-Stokes (NS) (momentum-balance, incompressibility) equations are coupled to each other within the phase-field framework. Wettability on rock/fluid interfaces is accounted for by means of an energy-penalty-based wetting (contact-angle) boundary condition. Individual balance equations are discretized by use of a flexible discontinuous Galerkin (DG) method. The discretization of the mass-balance equation is semi-implicit in time using a convex/concave splitting of the energy term. The momentum-balance equation is split from the incompressibility constraint by a projection method and linearized with a Picard splitting. Mass- and momentum-balance equations are coupled to each other by means of operator splitting, and are solved sequentially.

We discuss the mathematical model and its DG discretization, and briefly introduce nonlinear and linear solution strategies. Numerical-validation tests show optimal convergence rates for the DG discretization, indicating the correctness of the numerical scheme and its implementation. Physical-validation tests demonstrate the consistency of the phase distribution and velocity fields simulated within our framework. Finally, two-phase-flow simulations on two real pore-scale images demonstrate the usefulness of the pore-scale simulator. The direct pore-scale numerical-simulation methodology rigorously considers the flow physics by directly acting on pore-scale images of rocks without remeshing. The proposed method is accurate, numerically robust, and exhibits the potential for tackling realistic problems.