Displacement of yield-stress fluids in a fracture

S. A. Boronin, A. A. Osiptsov, J. Desroches

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


We consider a displacement of several yield-stress fluids in a Hele-Shaw cell. The topic is relevant to the development of a model for the flow of multiple phases inside a narrow fracture with application to hydraulically fracturing a hydrocarbon-bearing underground formation. Existing models for fracturing flows include only pure power-law models without yield stress, and the present work is aimed at filling this gap. The fluids are assumed to be immiscible and incompressible. We consider fluid advection in a plane channel in the presence of density gradients. Gravity is taken into account, so that there can be slumping and gravitational convection. We use the lubrication approximation so that governing equations are reduced to a 2D width-averaged system formed by the quasi-linear elliptic equation for pressure and transport equations for volume concentrations of fluids. The numerical solution is obtained using a finite-difference method. The pressure equation is solved using an iterative algorithm and the Multigrid method, while the transport equations are solved using a second-order TVD flux-limiting scheme with the superbee limiter. This numerical model is validated against three different sets of experiments: (i) gravitational slumping of fluids in a closed Hele-Shaw cell, (ii) viscous fingering of fluids with a high viscosity contrast due to the Saffman-Taylor (S-T) instability in a Hele-Shaw cell at microgravity conditions, (iii) displacement of Bingham fluids in a Hele-Shaw cell with the development of fingers due to the S-T instability. Good agreement is observed between simulations and laboratory data. The model is then used to investigate the joint effect of fingering and slumping. Numerical simulations show that the slumping rate of yield-stress fluid is significantly less pronounced than that of a Newtonian fluid with the same density and viscosity. If a low-viscosity Newtonian fluid is injected after a yield-stress one, the S-T instability at the interface leads to the development of fingers. As a result, fingers penetrating into a fluid with a finite yield stress locally decrease the pressure gradient and unyielded zones develop as a consequence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)47-63
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Multiphase Flow
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Fingering
  • Hele-Shaw cell
  • Interfacial instability
  • Saffman-Taylor instability
  • Viscous fingering
  • Yield stress


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