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Comparison of Three FE-FV Numerical Schemes for Single- and Two-Phase Flow Simulation of Fractured Porous Media


We benchmark a family of hybrid finite element–node-centered finite volume discretization methods (FEFV) for single- and two-phase flow/transport through porous media with discrete fracture representations. Special emphasis is placed on a new method we call DFEFVM in which the mesh is split along fracture–matrix interfaces so that discontinuities in concentration or saturation can evolve rather than being suppressed by nodal averaging of these variables. The main objective is to illustrate differences among three discretization schemes suitable for discrete fracture modeling: (a) FEFVM with volumetric finite elements for both fractures and porous rock matrix, (b) FEFVM with lower dimensional finite elements for fractures and volumetric finite elements for the matrix, and (c) DFEFVM with a mesh that is split along material discontinuities. Fracture discontinuities strongly influence single- and multi-phase fluid flow. Continuum methods, when used to model transport across such interfaces, smear out concentration/saturation. We show that the new DFEFVM addresses this problem producing significantly more accurate results. Sealed and open single fractures as well as a realistic fracture geometry are used to conduct tracer and water-flooding numerical experiments. The benchmarking results also reveal the limitations/mesh refinement requirements of FE node-centered FV hybrid methods. We show that the DFEFVM method produces more accurate results even for much coarser meshes.


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We would like to thank the sponsors of the ITF project on Improved Simulation of Flow in Fractured and Faulted Reservoirs, and the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) for supporting this research. Chris C. Pain and Martin J. Blunt, receive our thanks for their feedback and comments.

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Correspondence to H. M. Nick.

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Nick, H.M., Matthäi, S.K. Comparison of Three FE-FV Numerical Schemes for Single- and Two-Phase Flow Simulation of Fractured Porous Media. Transp Porous Med 90, 421–444 (2011).

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  • DFM
  • FEM
  • FVM
  • Two phase flow
  • Discrete fracture and matrix model