Permanent Fronts in Two-Phase Flows in a Porous Medium

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A family of exact solutions for a model of a one-dimensional horizontal flow of two immiscible, incompressible fluids in a porous medium, including the effects of capillary pressure, is obtained analytically by solving the governing singular parabolic nonlinear diffusion equation. Each solution has the form of a permanent front propagating with a constant velocity. It is shown that, for every propagation velocity, there exists a set of permanent fronts all of which are moving with this velocity in an inflowing wetting–outflowing non-wetting flow configuration. Global bifurcations of this set, with the front velocity as a bifurcation parameter, are investigated analytically and numerically in detail in the case when the permeabilities and the capillary pressure are linear functions of the wetting phase saturation. Main results for the nonlinear Brooks–Corey model are also presented. In both models three global bifurcations occur. By using a geometric dynamical system approach, the nonlinear stability of the permanent fronts is established analytically. Based on the permanent front solutions, an interpretation of the dynamics of an arbitrary front of finite extent in the model is given as follows. The instantaneous upstream (downstream) velocity of an arbitrary non-quasistationary front is equal to the velocity of a permanent front whose shape coincides up to two leading orders with the instantaneous shape of the non-quasistationary front at the upstream (respectively, downstream) location. The upstream and downstream locations of the front undergo instantaneous translations governed by modified nonsingular hyperbolic equations. The portion of the front in between these locations undergoes a diffusive redistribution governed by a nonsingular nonlinear parabolic diffusion equation. We have proposed a numerical approach based on a parabolic–hyperbolic domain decomposition for computing non-quasistationary fronts.

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