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The rheology of pseudoplastic fluids in porous media using network modeling

Journal of Colloid and Interface Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0021-9797(89)90128-8
  • Mathematics


Abstract This paper considers the rheology of pseudoplastic (shear thinning) fluids in porous media. The central problem studied is the relationship between the viscometric behavior of the polymer solution and its observed behavior in the porous matrix. In the past, a number of macroscopic approaches have been applied, usually based on capillary bundle models of the porous medium. These simplified models have been used along with constitutive equations describing the fluid behavior (usually of power law type) to establish semiempirical macroscopic equations describing the flow of non-Newtonian fluids in porous media. This procedure has been reasonably successful in correlating experimental results on the flow of polymer solutions through both consolidated and unconsolidated porous materials. However, it does not allow an interpretation of polymer flow in porous media in terms of the flows on a microscopic scale; nor does it allow us to predict changes in macroscopic behavior resulting from variations at a microscopic level in the characteristics of the porous medium such as pore size distribution. In this work, we use a network approach to the modeling of non-Newtonian rheology, in order to understand some of the more detailed features of polymjer flow in porous media. This approach provides a mathematical bridge between the behavior of the non-Newtonian fluid in a single capillary and the macroscopic behavior as deduced from the pressure drop-flow rate relation across the whole network model. It demonstrates the importance of flow redistribution within the elements of the capillary network as the overall pressure gradient varies. As an example of a pseudoplastic fluid in a porous medium, we consider the flow of xanthan biopolymer. This polymer is important as a displacing fluid viscosifier in enhanced oil recovery applications and, for that reason, a considerable amount of experimental data has been published on the flow of xanthan solutions in various porous media.

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