Numerical simulation of foam flow in porous media

Jakolien van der Meer

Research output: ThesisDissertation (TU Delft)

138 Downloads (Pure)


If secondary hydrocarbon recovery methods, like water flooding, fail because of the occurrence of viscous fingering one can turn to an enhanced oil recovery method (EOR) like the injection of foam. The generation of foam in a porousmedium can be described by a set of partial differential equations with strongly non-linear functions, which impose challenges for the numerical modeling. Former studies [1–3] show the occurrence of strongly temporally oscillating solutions when using forward simulation models, that are entirely due to discretization artifacts. We describe the foam process by an immiscible two-phase flow model where gas is injected in a porousmedium filled with a mixture of water and surfactants. The change from pure gas into foam is incorporated in the model through a reduction in the gas mobility. Hence, the two-phase description of the flow stays intact. Since the total pressure drop in the reservoir is small, both fluids can be considered incompressible [3]. However, whereas the fractional flow function for a gas-flooding process is a smooth function of water saturation, the generation of foam will cause a rapid increase of the flux function over a very small saturation scale. Consequently, the derivatives of the flux function can become extremely large and impose a severe constraint on the time step. We address the stability issues of the foam model, by numerous numerical approaches that improve the accuracy of the solutions. First, we study several averaging schemes and introduce a novel way of approximating the foam mobility functions on the grid interfaces in a finite volume framework. This will lead to solutions that are significantly smoother than can be achieved with standard averaging schemes. Next, we discuss several novel discretization schemes where the discontinuity is incorporated in the numerical fluxes for a simplified compressible flow model. These include the indirect addition of an extra grid interface at the location of the discontinuity, to preserve monotonicity of the solutions in time. Variations on this method, are the addition of an extra grid cell around the highly non-linear phase transition and the adaption of the flux terms based on the location of the discontinuity or non-linearity in the grid. As a practical example to demonstrate these techniques we study a simplified model for foam flow in porous media. The model is then extended to a two-dimensional reservoir, where the accuracy of the solutions is a main concern. The two-dimensional simulator that is used for this, was build and tested for the foam model. It includes higher-order hyperbolic Riemann solvers, and flux correction schemes to compute the saturation of the different fluid phases in the model. The elliptic solver for the pressure equation is also adapted to the stiffness of the problem. With this simulator we perform a quantitative study of the stability characteristics of the flow, to gain more insight in the important wave-lengths and scales of the foam model. This insight forms an essential step towards the design of a suitable computational solver that captures all the appropriate scales, while retaining computational efficiency. In addition, we present a qualitative analysis of the effect of different reservoir and fluid properties on the foam fingering behavior. In particular, we consider the effect of heterogeneity of the reservoir, injection rates, and foam quality. This leads to interesting observations about the influence of the different foam parameters on the stability of the solutions, and we are able to predict the flow stability for different foam qualities. Finally, we discuss several other approaches that were addressed during this PhD-project to increase the understanding of solving highly non-linear flow problems in a porous medium.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Delft University of Technology
  • Jansen, J.D., Supervisor
  • Möller, M., Advisor
  • Kraaijevanger, Hans, Advisor
Award date31 Jan 2018
Print ISBNs978-94-6233-863-0
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Foam flow in porous media
  • Local-equilibrium models
  • Finite volume methods
  • Stability analysis
  • Reservoir simulation


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