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Title: Controlling viscous fingering
Author: Beeson-Jones, Timothy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7228 9843
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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Viscous fingering occurs when one fluid displaces another fluid of a greater viscosity in a porous medium or a Hele-Shaw cell. Linear stability analysis is used to predict methods of suppressing instability. Then, experiments in which nonlinear growth dominates pattern formation are analysed to explore the nonlinear impact of strategies of suppressing finger growth. Often, chemical treatment fluid is injected into oil reservoirs in order to prevent sand production. This treatment fluid is usually followed by water injection to clean up the well. We explore the potential for viscous instability of the interface between the treatment fluid and the water, and also the treatment fluid and the oil, as a function of the volume of treatment fluid and the injection rate and viscosity ratios of the different fluids. For a given volume of treatment fluid and a given injection rate, we find the optimal viscosity of the treatment fluid to minimise the viscous instability. In the case of axisymmetric injection, the stabilisation associated with the azimuthal stretching of modes leads to a further constraint on the optimisation of the viscosity. In the case of oil production, polymers may be added to the displacing water in order to reduce adverse viscosity gradients. We also explore the case in which these polymers have a time-dependent viscosity, for example through the slow release from encapsulant. We calculate the injection flow rate profile that minimises the final amplitude of instability in both rectilinear and axisymmetric geometries. In a development of the model, we repeat the calculation for a shear-thinning rheology. Finally, experiments are analysed in which the nonlinear growth of viscous fingers develops to test the influence of different injection profiles on the development of instability. Diffusion Limited Aggregation (DLA) simulations are performed for comparison. In all cases, the evolving pattern has a saturation distribution, with an inner zone in which the fingers are static and an outer zone in which the fingers advance and grow. In the very centre of the viscous fingering patterns, there is a small fully-saturated region. In the experiments, the mass distribution in the inner zone varies with radius as a power law which relates to the fractal dimension for the analogue DLA simulations. In the outer region the saturation decreases linearly with radius. The radius of the inner frozen zone is approximately 2/3 of the outer radius in the cases of DLA and -- after a period of evolution -- the viscous fingering experiments. This allows the radial extents of the inner and outer zones to be predicted. The ratio of each radius to the extent of the fully-saturated region is independent of the injection profile and corresponds to values for DLA.
Supervisor: Woods, Andrew Sponsor: EPSRC ; BP
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: fluid dynamics ; viscous fingering ; DLA ; interfacial control ; Saffman-Taylor ; fractal