A Simulator with Numerical Upscaling for the Analysis of Coupled Multiphase Flow and Geomechanics in Heterogeneous and Deformable Porous and Fractured Media



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A growing demand for more detailed modeling of subsurface physics as ever more challenging reservoirs - often unconventional, with significant geomechanical particularities - become production targets has moti-vated research in coupled flow and geomechanics. Reservoir rock deforms to given stress conditions, so the simplified approach of using a scalar value of the rock compressibility factor in the fluid mass balance equation to describe the geomechanical system response cannot correctly estimate multi-dimensional rock deformation.

A coupled flow and geomechanics model considers flow physics and rock physics simultaneously by cou-pling different types of partial differential equations through primary variables. A number of coupled flow and geomechanics simulators have been developed and applied to describe fluid flow in deformable po-rous media but the majority of these coupled flow and geomechanics simulators have limited capabilities in modeling multiphase flow and geomechanical deformation in a heterogeneous and fractured reservoir. In addition, most simulators do not have the capability to simulate both coarse and fine scale multiphysics.

In this study I developed a new, fully implicit multiphysics simulator (TAM-CFGM: Texas A&M Coupled Flow and Geomechanics simulator) that can be applied to simulate a 2D or 3D multiphase flow and rock deformation in a heterogeneous and/or fractured reservoir system. I derived a mixed finite element formu-lation that satisfies local mass conservation and provides a more accurate estimation of the velocity solu-tion in the fluid flow equations. I used a continuous Galerkin formulation to solve the geomechanics equa-tion. These formulations allowed me to use unstructured meshes, a full-tensor permeability, and elastic stiffness. I proposed a numerical upscaling of the permeability and of the elastic stiffness tensors to gener-ate a coarse-scale description of the fine-scale grid in the model, and I implemented the methodology in the simulator.

I applied the code I developed to the simulation of the problem of multiphase flow in a fractured tight gas system. As a result, I observed unique phenomena (not reported before) that could not have been deter-mined without coupling. I demonstrated the importance and advantages of using unstructured meshes to effectively and realistically model a reservoir. In particular, high resolution discrete fracture models al-lowed me to obtain more detailed physics that could not be resolved with a structured grid. I performed numerical upscaling of a very heterogeneous geologic model and observed that the coarse-scale numerical solution matched the fine scale reference solution well. As a result, I believed I developed a method that can capture important physics of the fine-scale model with a reasonable computation cost.