The impact of fluid topology on residual saturations – A pore-network model study

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Florian Doster, Wissem Kallel and Rink van Dijke, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
In two-phase flow in porous media only fractions of the resident fluid are mobilised during a displacement process and, in general, a significant amount of the resident fluid remains permanently trapped. Depending on the application, entrapment is desirable (geological carbon storage), or it should be obviated (enhanced oil recovery, contaminant remediation). Despite its utmost importance for these applications, predictions of trapped fluid saturations for macroscopic systems, in particular under changing displacement conditions, remain challenging. The models that aim to represent trapping phenomena are typically empirical and require tracking of the history of the state variables. This exacerbates the experimental verification and the design of sophisticated displacement technologies that enhance or impede trapping. Recently, experiments [1] have suggested that a macroscopic normalized Euler number, quantifying the topology of fluid distributions, could serve as a parameter to predict residual saturations based on state variables. In these experiments the entrapment of fluids was visualised through 3D micro CT imaging. However, the experiments are notoriously time consuming and therefore only allow for a sparse sampling of the parameter space.

Pore-network models represent porous media through an equivalent network structure of pores and throats. Under quasi-static capillary dominated conditions displacement processes can be modeled through simple invasion percolation rules. Hence, in contrast to experiments, pore-network models are fast and therefore allow full sampling of the parameter space.

Here, we use pore-network modeling [2] to critically investigate the knowledge gained through observing and tracking the normalized Euler number. More specifically, we identify conditions under which (a) systems with the same saturations but different normalized Euler numbers lead to different residual saturations and (b) systems with the same saturations and the same normalized Euler numbers but different process histories yield the same residual saturations. Special attention is given to contact angle and process histories with varying drainage and imbibition periods.

[1] Herring et al., Adv. Water. Resour., 62, 47-58 (2013)

[2] Ryazanov et al., Transp. Porous Media, 80, 79-99 (2009).