Nonlinear Theory for Frontal Stability and Viscous Fingering in Porous Media
- H.D. Outmans (Union Oil Co. Of California)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Society of Petroleum Engineers Journal
- Publication Date
- June 1962
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 165 - 176
- 1962. Original copyright American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers, Inc. Copyright has expired.
- 5.7.2 Recovery Factors, 4.1.5 Processing Equipment, 5.4.2 Gas Injection Methods, 4.3.4 Scale
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Present first-order theory for frontal stability and viscous fingering of immiscible liquids is improved by including the nonlinear terms in the equations describing conditions at the interface of the liquids. This leads to the revision of several conclusions which were based on first-order theory. They concern the growth rate and changing shape of a sinusoidal disturbance, particularly in relation to the wave number of this disturbance. Nonlinear aspects of effective inter facial tension are discussed and it is shown that this tension is not simply a positive proportionality constant in a linear relation between pressure difference and curvature at the interface. Scaling requirements are determined from the dimensionless groups which govern fingering. Gravity and interfacial tension invalidate a previously formulated conclusion that the shape of a finger after a given displacement is independent of the displacement velocity. Also, similarity of fingering (and, hence, of sweep efficiency in case of an unstable front) requires geometrical similarity of the initial disturbance in the model and the reservoir with a scale factor which is the same as the one for scaling down the dimensions of the reservoir.
The critical velocity at which the transition zone in the vertical displacement of immiscible liquids becomes unstable was calculated by Hill. More recently, the same was done for nonvertical displacements and it was also shown that the stability is affected by an effective interfacial tension between the liquids. Although in the oil reservoir a stable front is always desirable from a recovery point of view, the necessary velocity may have to be so low that the corresponding production rate is not economical. In that case, a knowledge of the fingering unstable front is necessary for predicting recovery at breakthrough. Studies in this direction have not gone beyond the very moment at which fingering first occurs. Conclusions about stability and fingering in these references are all based on linear theory. In this theory the nonlinear terms in the equations describing conditions at the front are neglected. The usual justification for this lack of mathematical rigor is that the nonlinear terms can be made small relative to the linear terms and, supposedly, small causes produce only small effects. It has been recognized, however, that this is not necessarily true in the nonlinear problems of hydrodynamics. The hydrodynamic stability and fingering of the front between two liquids, accelerated in a direction normal to the front, for instance, is strongly influenced by the nonlinearity of the boundary conditions. Since these boundary conditions are not unlike those arising in the problem of stability and fingering of the front during a slow immiscible displacement in porous media, it was thought that there, too, the nonlinear terms should be taken into consideration. A summary of the results obtained in linear theory and a comparison with experimental data precede the nonlinear theory developed in this paper. This summary serves to introduce some quantities which will be used in the further development. It should also be pointed out that the method of higher-order approximation by which the nonlinear stability problem is solved has application in other reservoir studies.
SUMMARY OF LINEAR THEORY
1. A plane interface remains stable if its velocity is smaller than a critical velocity.
This equation is derived for uniform flow in a thin layer inclined to the horizontal plane. The displacement takes place in a direction normal to the intersection of this layer and the horizontal plane. The undisturbed (line) interface is normal to the velocity. Fluid 1, the upper fluid (gas), is displacing Fluid 2 (oil).
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