Pore Topology Method: A General and Fast Pore-Scale Modeling Approach to Simulate Fluid Flow in Porous Media
Abstract:Micro-scale modeling of multiphase flow in porous media is critical to characterize porous materials. Several modeling techniques have been implemented to date, but none can be used as a general strategy for all porous media applications due to challenges presented by non-smooth high-curvature and deformable solid surfaces, and by a wide range of pore sizes and porosities. Finite approaches like the finite volume method require a high quality, problem-dependent mesh, while particle-based approaches like the lattice Boltzmann require too many particles to achieve a stable meaningful solution. Both come at a large computational cost. Other methods such as pore network modeling (PNM) have been developed to accelerate the solution process by simplifying the solution domain, but so far a unique and straightforward methodology to implement PNM is lacking.
Pore topology method (PTM) is a new topologically consistent approach developed to simulate multiphase flow in porous media. The core of PTM is to reduce the complexity of the 3-D void space geometry by working with its medial surface as the solution domain. Medial surface is capable of capturing all the corners and surface curvatures in a porous structure, and therefore provides a topologically consistent representative geometry for porous structure. Despite the simplicity and low computational cost, PTM provides a fast and straightforward approach for micro-scale modeling of fluid flow in all types of porous media irrespective of their porosity and pore size distribution.
In our previous work, we developed a non-iterative fast medial surface finder algorithm to determine a voxel-wide medial surface of the void space of porous media as well as a set of simple rules to determine the capillary pressure-saturation curves for a porous system assuming quasi-static two-phase flow with a planar w-nw interface. Our simulation results for a highly porous fibrous material and polygonal capillary tubes were in excellent agreement with available experimental and analytical data.
In the current study, we expand the simulation rules to include phenomena such as interface merging at intersections, and converging/diverging flow paths. We also assess capabilities of PTM to compute the permeability of a porous system; and to simulate two-phase flow in swelling porous media.