Multiphase flow with a simplified model for oil entrapment

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Transport in Porous Media



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A computationally simple procedure is described to model effects of oil entrapment on three-phase permeability-saturation-capillary pressure relations. The model requires knowledge of airwater saturation-capillary pressure relations, which are assumed to be nonhysteretic and are characterized by Van Genuchten's parametric model; scaling factors equal to the ratio of water surface tension to oil surface tension and to oil-water interfacial tension; and the maximum oil (also referred to as nonwetting liquid in a three-phase medium) saturation which would occur following water flooding of oil saturated soil. Trapped nonwetting liquid saturation is predicted as a function of present oil-water and air-oil capillary pressures and minimum historical water saturation since the occurrence of oil at a given location using an empirically-based algorithm. Oil relative permeability is predicted as a simple function of apparent water saturation (sum of actual water saturation and trapped oil saturation) and free oil saturation (difference between total oil and trapped oil saturation), and water relative permeability is treated as a unique function of actual water saturation. The proposed method was implemented in a two-dimensional finite-element simulator for three-phase flow and component transport, MOFAT. The fluid entrapment model requires minimal additional computational effort and computer storage and is numerically robust. The applicability of the model is illustrated by a number of hypothetical one- and two-dimensional simulations involving infiltration and redistribution with changes in water-table elevations. Results of the simulations indicate that the fraction of a hydrocarbon spill that becomes trapped under given boundary conditions increases as a nonlinear function of the maximum trapped nonwetting liquid saturation. Dense organic liquid plumes may exhibit more pronounced effects of entrapment due to the more dynamic nature of flow, even under static water table conditions. Disregarding nonwetting fluid entrapment may lead to significant errors in predictions of immiscible plume migration.

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