In the presence of counter-current flow, nonlinear convergence problems may arise in implicit time-stepping when the popular phase-potential upwinding (PPU) scheme is used. The PPU numerical flux is non-differentiable across the co-current/counter-current flow regimes. This may lead to cycles or divergence in the Newton iteration. Recently proposed methods address improved smoothness of the numerical flux. The objective of this work is to devise and analyze an alternative numerical flux scheme called C1-PPU that, in addition to improving smoothness with respect to saturations and phase potentials, also improves the level of scalar nonlinearity and accuracy. C1-PPU involves a novel use of the flux limiter concept from the context of high-resolution methods, and allows a smooth variation between the co-current/counter-current flow regimes. The scheme is general and applies to fully coupled flow and transport formulations with an arbitrary number of phases.

Several complex heterogeneous multi-dimensional numerical examples under the three-phase black-oil formulation are presented. The examples include a miscible gas injection problem that involves significant variations in the total-velocity field over time. The proposed scheme is compared to the conventional PPU and the recently proposed Hybrid Upwinding schemes. We investigate three properties of these numerical fluxes: smoothness, nonlinearity, and accuracy. The results indicate that in addition to smoothness, nonlinearity may also be critical for convergence behavior and thus needs to be considered in the design of an efficient numerical flux scheme. Moreover, the numerical examples show that our C1-PPU scheme is both entropy-satisfying, and exhibits superior convergence properties for large time steps compared to the other alternatives.

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