An analytic solution for Counter-Current spontaneous imbibition in porous media by the perturbation method

Sepide Zakeri, Randy Hazlett, Krishna Babu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Following primary production of hydrocarbon from naturally fractured reservoirs, secondary recovery by waterflooding relies on Spontaneous Imbibition (SI) as the primary mechanism for oil expulsion to the fracture network, where it can be easily transported to neighboring production wells. Thus, a more complete understanding of this phenomenon is warranted and essential for process improvement. The imbibition process, taking advantage of inherent preferential affinity for water contact over oil of high energy solids, is the rate determining step in recovery and can proceed in either co-current or counter-current fashion, depending upon entrance and exit boundary conditions. Due to the prominence of linear flow normal to extensive planar fracture faces, the phenomena can be largely described as one-dimensional displacement. In this study, the nonlinear one-dimensional diffusivity equation, derived by combining Darcy's law for both wetting and non-wetting phases with the mass conservation equation, is solved for counter-current spontaneous imbibition using a direct regular perturbation scheme. Saturation and phase pressure profiles in time and space were found to agree with literature solutions. In its analytic formulation, the method constitutes a simpler, more accurate, and more direct way to compute spontaneous imbibition performance than previously available. We claim generality with regard to functional forms for relative permeability and capillary pressure and applicability over the entire range of wettability, provided these effects are reflected in the parameterization of capillary pressure and saturation normalization. In particular, the present method avoids the difficulty in solving nonlinear integral equations. Instead, we reduce computations to a set of simple numerical integrations of the diffusion coefficient. Such a streamlined solution method can more easily provide a compute engine for inverse modeling or optimization schemes to recovery rock and fluid properties from displacement experiments. The solution method is benchmarked against oil–water and air–water solutions by alternative techniques and experimental data. The case of spontaneous imbibition into dry diatomite represents extreme contrast in phase mobility and a rigorous test of the perturbation method as an easier and more direct way to model 1D SI. Following method construction and benchmarking of the new streamlined countercurrent spontaneous imbibition solution method, a subsequent parametric study contributes to a greater understanding of controlling factors in fracture-matrix exchange in porous media.

Original languageEnglish
Article number129181
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Analytical
  • Fracture
  • Imbibition
  • Perturbation
  • Reservoir
  • Spontaneous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'An analytic solution for Counter-Current spontaneous imbibition in porous media by the perturbation method'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this