The flow of non-Newtonian fluids in porous media is important in many applications, such as polymer processing, heavy oil flow, and gel cleanup in propped fractures. Residual polymer gel in propped fractures results in low fracture conductivity and short effective fracture length, sometimes causing severe productivity impairment of a hydraulically fractured well. But non-Newtonian fluid flow behavior in porous media is difficult to be described and modeled. The Kozeny-Carman equation, a traditional permeability-porosity relationship, has been popularly used in porous media flow models. However, this relationship is not suitable for non-Newtonian fluid flow in porous media.

The aim of this work is to use a combination of 3D finite volume simulation and analytical calculations to develop a comprehensive model of Herschel-Bulkley non-Newtonian fluid flow through porous media. We present the mathematical model development, and then modify the model based on numerical simulation results. In the simulations, we developed a micro pore-scale model to mimic the real porous structure. The correlation of pressure gradient and superficial velocity was investigated under the influence of primary parameters, such as yield stress, power law index, consistency index, and proppant diameter. The Herschel-Bulkley model was used with an appropriate modification proposed by Papanastasiou to avoid the discontinuity of the apparent viscosity and numerical difficulties.

The result of the new model indicates that yield stress has a significant impact on non-Newtonian fluid flow through porous media. The analytical expression reveals the physical principles for flow velocity in porous media, and the variation trends of the threshold pressure gradient versus different influence factors are shown. By Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), we obtained a detailed view of streamlines, the velocity field, and the pressure distribution in porous media. Numerical calculation results show that, in the center of the throats of porous media, the increasing yield stress widens the central plug -like flow region, and the increasing power law index sharpens the velocity profile. The new model can be readily applied to provide a clear guide to selection of fracture fluid, and can be easily incorporated into any existing reservoir simulators.

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