Fractional Flow Theory Applicable to Non-Newtonian Behavior in EOR Processes

W. R. Rossen, A. Venkatraman, R. T. Johns, K. R. Kibodeaux, H. Lai, N. Moradi Tehrani

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22 Scopus citations


The method of characteristics, or fractional-flow theory, is extremely useful in understanding complex Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) processes and in calibrating simulators. One limitation has been its restriction to Newtonian rheology except in rectilinear flow. Its inability to deal with non-Newtonian rheology in polymer and foam EOR has been a serious limitation. We extend fractional flow methods for two-phase flow to non-Newtonian fluids in one-dimensional cylindrical flow, where rheology changes with distance from injection well. The fractional flow curve is then a function of position and we analyze the characteristic equations for two applications-polymer and foam floods. For polymer flooding, we present a semi-analytical solution for the changing fractional flow curve where characteristics and shocks collide. The semi-analytical solution is shown to give good agreement with the finite-difference simulation thus helping us understand the development and resolution of shocks. We discuss two separate cases of foam injection with or without preflush. We observe that the fractional flow solutions are more accurate than finite-difference simulations on a comparable grid and hence the method can be used to calibrate simulators. For SAG (alternating-slug) foam injection, characteristics and shocks collide, making the fractional-flow solution complex. Nonetheless, one can solve exactly for changing mobility near the well, to greater accuracy than with conventional simulation. The fractional-flow method extended to non-Newtonian flow can be useful both for its insights for scale-up of laboratory experiments and to calibrate computer simulators involving non-Newtonian EOR. It can also be an input to streamline simulations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-236
Number of pages24
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Catalysis
  • Chemical Engineering(all)


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