An efficient numerical model for incompressible two-phase flow in fractured media

Hussein Hoteit, Abbas Firoozabadi*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

272 Scopus citations


Various numerical methods have been used in the literature to simulate single and multiphase flow in fractured media. A promising approach is the use of the discrete-fracture model where the fracture entities in the permeable media are described explicitly in the computational grid. In this work, we present a critical review of the main conventional methods for multiphase flow in fractured media including the finite difference (FD), finite volume (FV), and finite element (FE) methods, that are coupled with the discrete-fracture model. All the conventional methods have inherent limitations in accuracy and applications. The FD method, for example, is restricted to horizontal and vertical fractures. The accuracy of the vertex-centered FV method depends on the size of the matrix gridcells next to the fractures; for an acceptable accuracy the matrix gridcells next to the fractures should be small. The FE method cannot describe properly the saturation discontinuity at the matrix-fracture interface. In this work, we introduce a new approach that is free from the limitations of the conventional methods. Our proposed approach is applicable in 2D and 3D unstructured griddings with low mesh orientation effect; it captures the saturation discontinuity from the contrast in capillary pressure between the rock matrix and fractures. The matrix-fracture and fracture-fracture fluxes are calculated based on powerful features of the mixed finite element (MFE) method which provides, in addition to the gridcell pressures, the pressures at the gridcell interfaces and can readily model the pressure discontinuities at impermeable faults in a simple way. To reduce the numerical dispersion, we use the discontinuous Galerkin (DG) method to approximate the saturation equation. We take advantage of a hybrid time scheme to alleviate the restrictions on the size of the time step in the fracture network. Several numerical examples in 2D and 3D demonstrate the robustness of the proposed model. Results show the significance of capillary pressure and orders of magnitude increase in computational speed compared to previous works.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)891-905
Number of pages15
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Capillary pressure
  • Discontinuous Galerkin
  • Discrete fractured model
  • Fractured media
  • Heterogeneous media
  • IMPES methods
  • Mixed finite element method
  • Two-phase flow
  • Water injection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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