Numerical simulation of immiscible viscous fingering using adaptive unstructured meshes

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Alex Adam, Imperial College London, Earth Science & Engineering, London, United Kingdom
Displacement of one fluid by another in porous media occurs in various settings including hydrocarbon recovery, CO2 storage and water purification. When the invading fluid is of lower viscosity than the resident fluid, the displacement front is subject to a Saffman-Taylor instability and is unstable to transverse perturbations. These instabilities can grow, leading to fingering of the invading fluid.

Numerical simulation of viscous fingering is challenging. The physics is controlled by a complex interplay of viscous and diffusive forces and it is necessary to ensure physical diffusion dominates numerical diffusion to obtain converged solutions. This typically requires the use of high mesh resolution and high order numerical methods. This is computationally expensive. We demonstrate here the use of a novel control volume - finite element (CVFE) method along with dynamic unstructured mesh adaptivity to simulate viscous fingering with higher accuracy and lower computational cost than conventional methods. Our CVFE method employs a discontinuous representation for both pressure and velocity, allowing the use of smaller control volumes (CVs). This yields higher resolution of the saturation field which is represented CV-wise. Moreover, dynamic mesh adaptivity allows high mesh resolution to be employed where it is required to resolve the fingers and lower resolution elsewhere. We use our results to re-examine the existing criteria that have been proposed to govern the onset of instability.

Mesh adaptivity requires the mapping of data from one mesh to another. Conventional methods such as consistent interpolation do not readily generalise to discontinuous fields and are non-conservative. We further contribute a general framework for interpolation of CV fields by Galerkin projection. The method is conservative, higher order and yields improved results, particularly with higher order or discontinuous elements where existing approaches are often excessively diffusive.