Hybrid upwind discretization of nonlinear two-phase flow with gravity

S. H. Lee*, Y. Efendiev, H. A. Tchelepi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Multiphase flow in porous media is described by coupled nonlinear mass conservation laws. For immiscible Darcy flow of multiple fluid phases, whereby capillary effects are negligible, the transport equations in the presence of viscous and buoyancy forces are highly nonlinear and hyperbolic. Numerical simulation of multiphase flow processes in heterogeneous formations requires the development of discretization and solution schemes that are able to handle the complex nonlinear dynamics, especially of the saturation evolution, in a reliable and computationally efficient manner. In reservoir simulation practice, single-point upwinding of the flux across an interface between two control volumes (cells) is performed for each fluid phase, whereby the upstream direction is based on the gradient of the phase-potential (pressure plus gravity head). This upwinding scheme, which we refer to as Phase-Potential Upwinding (PPU), is combined with implicit (backward-Euler) time discretization to obtain a Fully Implicit Method (FIM). Even though FIM suffers from numerical dispersion effects, it is widely used in practice. This is because of its unconditional stability and because it yields conservative, monotone numerical solutions. However, FIM is not unconditionally convergent. The convergence difficulties are particularly pronounced when the different immiscible fluid phases switch between co-current and counter-current states as a function of time, or (Newton) iteration. Whether the multiphase flow across an interface (between two control-volumes) is co-current, or counter-current, depends on the local balance between the viscous and buoyancy forces, and how the balance evolves in time. The sensitivity of PPU to small changes in the (local) pressure distribution exacerbates the problem. The common strategy to deal with these difficulties is to cut the timestep and try again. Here, we propose a Hybrid-Upwinding (HU) scheme for the phase fluxes, then HU is combined with implicit time discretization to yield a fully implicit method. In the HU scheme, the phase flux is divided into two parts based on the driving force. The viscous-driven and buoyancy-driven phase fluxes are upwinded differently. Specifically, the viscous flux, which is always co-current, is upwinded based on the direction of the total-velocity. The buoyancy-driven flux across an interface is always counter-current and is upwinded such that the heavier fluid goes downward and the lighter fluid goes upward. We analyze the properties of the Implicit Hybrid Upwinding (IHU) scheme. It is shown that IHU is locally conservative and produces monotone, physically-consistent numerical solutions. The IHU solutions show numerical diffusion levels that are slightly higher than those for standard FIM (i.e., implicit PPU). The primary advantage of the IHU scheme is that the numerical overall-flux of a fluid phase remains continuous and differentiable as the flow regime changes between co-current and counter-current conditions. This is in contrast to the standard phase-potential upwinding scheme, in which the overall fractional-flow (flux) function is non-differentiable across the boundary between co-current and counter-current flows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-38
Number of pages12
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Discretization
  • Gravity
  • Immiscible multiphase flow
  • Nonlinear hyperbolic
  • Nonlinear solver
  • Upwinding

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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