Coupling of multiscale and multi-continuum approaches

Eric T. Chung, Yalchin Efendiev*, Tat Leung, Maria Vasilyeva

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Simulating complex processes in fractured media requires some type of model reduction. Well-known approaches include multi-continuum techniques, which have been commonly used in approximating subgrid effects for flow and transport in fractured media. Our goal in this paper is to (1) show a relation between multi-continuum approaches and Generalized Multiscale Finite Element Method (GMsFEM) and (2) to discuss coupling these approaches for solving problems in complex multiscale fractured media. The GMsFEM, a systematic approach, constructs multiscale basis functions via local spectral decomposition in pre-computed snapshot spaces. We show that GMsFEM can automatically identify separate fracture networks via local spectral problems. We discuss the relation between these basis functions and continuums in multi-continuum methods. The GMsFEM can automatically detect each continuum and represent the interaction between the continuum and its surrounding (matrix). For problems with simplified fracture networks, we propose a simplified basis construction with the GMsFEM. This simplified approach is effective when the fracture networks are known and have simplified geometries. We show that this approach can achieve a similar result compared to the results using the GMsFEM with spectral basis functions. Further, we discuss the coupling between the GMsFEM and multi-continuum approaches. In this case, many fractures are resolved while for unresolved fractures, we use a multi-continuum approach with local Representative Volume Element information. As a result, the method deals with a system of equations on a coarse grid, where each equation represents one of the continua on the fine grid. We present various basis construction mechanisms and numerical results. The GMsFEM framework, in addition, can provide adaptive and online basis functions to improve the accuracy of coarse-grid simulations. These are discussed in the paper. In addition, we present an example of the application of our approach to shale gas transport in fractured media.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-41
Number of pages33
JournalGEM - International Journal on Geomathematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.


  • Fracture
  • Multi-continuum
  • Multiscale finite element
  • Porous media
  • Upscaling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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