Modeling Geometric State for Fluids in Porous Media: Evolution of the Euler Characteristic

James E. McClure*, Thomas Ramstad, Zhe Li, Ryan T. Armstrong, Steffen Berg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Multiphase flow in porous media is strongly influenced by the pore-scale arrangement of fluids. Reservoir-scale constitutive relationships capture these effects in a phenomenological way, relying only on fluid saturation to characterize the macroscopic behavior. Working toward a more rigorous framework, we make use of the fact that the momentary state of such a system is uniquely characterized by the geometry of the pore-scale fluid distribution. We consider how fluids evolve as they undergo topological changes induced by pore-scale displacement events. Changes to the topology of an object are fundamentally discrete events. We describe how discontinuities arise, characterize the possible topological transformations and analyze the associated source terms based on geometric evolution equations. Geometric evolution is shown to be hierarchical in nature, with a topological source term that constrains how a structure can evolve with time. The challenge associated with predicting topological changes is addressed by constructing a universal geometric state function that predicts the possible states based on a non-dimensional relationship with two degrees of freedom. The approach is validated using fluid configurations from both capillary and viscous regimes in ten different porous media with porosity between 0.10 and 0.38. We show that the non-dimensional relationship is independent of both the material type and flow regime. We demonstrate that the state function can be used to predict history-dependent behavior associated with the evolution of the Euler characteristic during two-fluid flow.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-250
Number of pages22
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


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