Role of Medium Heterogeneity and Viscosity Contrast in Miscible Flow Regimes and Mixing Zone Growth: A Computational Pore-Scale Approach

Afshari, S., Kantzas, A., Hejazi, H.

DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevFluids.3.054501
Physical Review Fluids, 3(5), May 2018.


Miscible displacement of fluids in porous media is often characterized by the scaling of the mixing zone length with displacement time. Depending on the viscosity contrast of fluids, the scaling law varies between the square root relationship, a sign for dispersive transport regime during stable displacement, and the linear relationship, which represents the viscous fingering regime during an unstable displacement. The presence of heterogeneities in a porous medium significantly affects the scaling behavior of the mixing length as it interacts with the viscosity contrast to control the mixing of fluids in the pore space. In this study, the dynamics of the flow and transport during both unit and adverse viscosity ratio miscible displacements are investigated in heterogeneous packings of circular grains using pore-scale numerical simulations. The pore-scale heterogeneity level is characterized by the variations of the grain diameter and velocity field. The growth of mixing length is employed to identify the nature of the miscible transport regime at different viscosity ratios and heterogeneity levels. It is shown that as the viscosity ratio increases to higher adverse values, the scaling law of mixing length gradually shifts from dispersive to fingering nature up to a certain viscosity ratio and remains almost the same afterwards. In heterogeneous media, the mixing length scaling law is observed to be generally governed by the variations of the velocity field rather than the grain size. Furthermore, the normalization of mixing length temporal plots with respect to the governing parameters of viscosity ratio, heterogeneity, medium length, and medium aspect ratio is performed. The results indicate that mixing length scales exponentially with log-viscosity ratio and grain size standard deviation while the impact of aspect ratio is insignificant. For stable flows, mixing length scales with the square root of medium length, whereas it changes linearly with length during unstable flows. This scaling procedure allows us to describe the temporal variation of mixing length using a generalized curve for various combinations of the flow conditions and porous medium properties.

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