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Member Research and Reports

UNC: Researchers Conduct Benchmark Comparison of Pore-scale Models for Multiphase Flow

Multiphase flow in porous media is the simultaneous movement of two or more fluid phases through a porous solid. It occurs in many natural processes — picture avalanches and groundwater trickling through rock — and in several industrial uses, from nuclear reactors to extracting oil and gas from the subsurface layer of the earth, to sequestering carbon dioxide in the subsurface to reduce emissions into the atmosphere.

In a new paper, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill share findings from the first-ever comprehensive comparison of pore-scale models for multiphase flow. Pore-scale models are predictive mathematical models that help scientists simulate how multiphase flow processes will play out, increasing understanding of natural events and enhancing the effectiveness of industrial applications.

“It has always been challenging to simulate unstable multiple fluid phases moving through a porous solid at the same time, considering varying qualities like wettability, viscosity and pore geometry,” said Dr. Cass T. Miller, a paper co-author and Okun Distinguished Professor of environmental sciences and engineering at the University of North Carolina Gillings School for Global Public Health. “That open challenge is why we have so many models in existence, and why this area of research is so active.”

The new study, published online June 24 by the journal PNAS, is titled, “Comprehensive comparison of pore-scale models for multiphase flow in porous media.” The study findings were the work of a 20-institution global collaboration, with Ms. Kelsey Bruning, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the environmental sciences and engineering department, also contributing from the Gillings School.

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