An asymptotic solution for two-phase flow in the presence of capillary forces



[1] Under the assumption of smoothly varying background properties I derive an asymptotic solution for two-phase flow. This formulation partitions the modeling of two-phase flow into two subproblems: an arrival time calculation and a saturation amplitude computation. The asymptotic solution itself is defined along a trajectory though the model. If gravitational forces are not important and the flow field is independent of changes in the background saturation, the trajectory may be identified with a streamline, and the asymptotic approach provides a mathematical basis for streamline simulation. The evolution of the saturation amplitude is governed by a generalization of Burgers' equation, defined along the trajectory. If the capillary properties are uniform and gravitational forces are negligible, one can derive self-similar solutions for the three limiting behaviors of a two-phase front. Asymptotic solutions were found to deviate by less than 5% from saturations calculated using a numerical simulator. The numerical results indicate that changes in capillary properties can introduce significant variations in the arrival time of a specific aqueous fraction. A more robust definition of arrival time appears to be the time associated with the peak rate of change in aqueous phase fraction, the greatest slope of the breakthrough curve.