Journal of Fluid Mechanics


Non-equilibrium effects in capillarity and interfacial area in two-phase flow: dynamic pore-network modelling


a1 Department of Earth Sciences, Utrecht University, PO Box 80021, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands

a2 Department of Mathematics, University of Bergen, Johannes Brunsgate 12, N-5007 Bergen, Norway


Current macroscopic theories of two-phase flow in porous media are based on the extended Darcy's law and an algebraic relationship between capillary pressure and saturation. Both of these equations have been challenged in recent years, primarily based on theoretical works using a thermodynamic approach, which have led to new governing equations for two-phase flow in porous media. In these equations, new terms appear related to the fluid–fluid interfacial area and non-equilibrium capillarity effects. Although there has been a growing number of experimental works aimed at investigating the new equations, a full study of their significance has been difficult as some quantities are hard to measure and experiments are costly and time-consuming. In this regard, pore-scale computational tools can play a valuable role. In this paper, we develop a new dynamic pore-network simulator for two-phase flow in porous media, called DYPOSIT. Using this tool, we investigate macroscopic relationships among average capillary pressure, average phase pressures, saturation and specific interfacial area. We provide evidence that at macroscale, average capillary pressure–saturation–interfacial area points fall on a single surface regardless of flow conditions and fluid properties. We demonstrate that the traditional capillary pressure–saturation relationship is not valid under dynamic conditions, as predicted by the theory. Instead, one has to employ the non-equilibrium capillary theory, according to which the fluids pressure difference is a function of the time rate of saturation change. We study the behaviour of non-equilibrium capillarity coefficient, specific interfacial area, and its production rate versus saturation and viscosity ratio.

A major feature of our pore-network model is a new computational algorithm, which considers capillary diffusion. Pressure field is calculated for each fluid separately, and saturation is computed in a semi-implicit way. This provides more numerical stability, compared with previous models, especially for unfavourable viscosity ratios and small capillary number values.

(Received August 13 2009)

(Revised February 02 2010)

(Accepted February 02 2010)


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