On the consistency of scale among experiments, theory, and simulation

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences | McClure et al. [2017]


As a tool for addressing problems of scale, we consider an evolving approach known as the thermodynamically constrained averaging theory (TCAT), which has broad applicability to hydrology. We consider the case of modeling of two-fluid-phase flow in porous media, and we focus on issues of scale as they relate to various measures of pressure, capillary pressure, and state equations needed to produce solvable models. We apply TCAT to perform physics-based data assimilation to understand how the internal behavior influences the macroscale state of two-fluid porous medium systems. A microfluidic experimental method and a lattice Boltzmann simulation method are used to examine a key deficiency associated with standard approaches. In a hydrologic process such as evaporation, the water content will ultimately be reduced below the irreducible wetting-phase saturation determined from experiments. This is problematic since the derived closure relationships cannot predict the associated capillary pressures for these states. We demonstrate that the irreducible wetting-phase saturation is an artifact of the experimental design, caused by the fact that the boundary pressure difference does not approximate the true capillary pressure. Using averaging methods, we compute the true capillary pressure for fluid configurations at and below the irreducible wetting-phase saturation. Results of our analysis include a state function for the capillary pressure expressed as a function of fluid saturation and interfacial area.

Full text can be found here.



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