Pressure-driven growth in strongly heterogeneous systems

Grassia, Paul (2018) Pressure-driven growth in strongly heterogeneous systems. European Physical Journal E, 41. 10. ISSN 1292-8941 (

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The pressure-driven growth model for advance of a foam front through an oil reservoir during foam improved oil recovery is considered: specifically the limit of strong heterogeneity in the reservoir permeability is treated, such that permeability variation with depth more than outweighs the tendency of the net pressure driving the front to decay with depth. This means that the fastest moving part of the front is not at the top of the solution domain, but rather somewhere in the interior. Moreover the location of the foam front on the top boundary of the system can no longer be specified as a boundary condition, but instead must be determined as part of the solution of the problem. Numerical solutions obtained from the pressure-driven growth model under these circumstances are compared with approximate analytic solutions. An early-time approximate solution is found to break down remarkably quickly (far more quickly than break down would occur in the analogous homogeneous system). Numerical solutions agree much better with local quasi-static solutions centred about local maxima in the front shape, each local maximum corresponding to a depth within the reservoir at which a high permeability stratum is found. These individual local solutions meet together at sharp concave corners to cover the entire depth of the foam front. As time continues to progress however, the system evolves towards a long-time, global quasi-static solution, corresponding to the fastest moving of the aforementioned local maxima. Additional key features of the predicted front shapes are elucidated. The foam front is found to meet the top boundary obliquely despite an established convention in pressure-driven growth that the front and top boundary should meet at right angles. In addition, at each sharp concave corner, discontinuous jumps are predicted in the path length that material points travel to reach either side of the corner. Moreover the long-time, global quasi-static solution is found to admit smooth concavities, as opposed to the aforementioned sharp concave corners, which only tend to be prominent earlier on.


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