Transport in Porous Media

, Volume 104, Issue 1, pp 205–229 | Cite as

Elucidating the Role of Interfacial Tension for Hydrological Properties of Two-Phase Flow in Natural Sandstone by an Improved Lattice Boltzmann Method

  • Fei JiangEmail author
  • Takeshi Tsuji
  • Changhong Hu


We investigated the interfacial tension (IFT) effect on fluid flow characteristics inside micro-scale, porous media by a highly efficient multi-phase lattice Boltzmann method using a graphics processing unit. IFT is one of the most important parameters for carbon capture and storage and enhanced oil recovery. Rock pores of Berea sandstone were reconstructed from micro-CT scanned images, and multi-phase flows were simulated for the digital rock model at extremely high resolution (3.2 \(\upmu \)m). Under different IFT conditions, numerical analyses were carried out first to investigate the variation in relative permeability, and then to clarify evolution of the saturation distribution of injected fluid. We confirmed that the relative permeability decreases with increasing IFT due to growing capillary trapping intensity. It was also observed that with certain pressure gradient \(\Delta P\) two crucial IFT values, \(\sigma _{1}\) and \(\sigma _{2}\), exist, creating three zones in which the displacement process has totally different characteristics. When \(\sigma _{1}< \sigma < \sigma _{2}\), the capillary fingering patterns are observed, while for \(\sigma < \sigma _{1}\) viscous fingering is dominant and most of the passable pore spaces were invaded. When \(\sigma > \sigma _{2}\) the invading fluid failed to break through. The pore-throat-size distribution estimated from these crucial IFT values (\(\sigma _{1 }\)and \(\sigma _{2})\) agrees with that derived from mercury porosimetry measurements of Berea sandstone. This study demonstrates that the proposed numerical method is an efficient tool for investigating hydrological properties from pore structures.


Interfacial tension effect Lattice Boltzmann simulation GPU computing Porous media 



We gratefully acknowledge the support of the I2CNER, which is sponsored by the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT), Japan. This work was supported by the grant for Environmental Research Projects facility of The Sumitomo Foundation and partially supported by a grant from the Grant-in-Aid for Challenging Exploratory Research facility of MEXT (No. 24656536).

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Institute for Carbon-Neutral Energy Research (WPI-I2CNER)Kyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan
  2. 2.Research Institute for Applied MechanicsKyushu UniversityFukuokaJapan

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