Pattern formation in fluid injection into dense granular media

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Zhang, Fengshou
Huang, Haiying
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Integrated theoretical and experimental analysis is carried out in this work to investigate the fundamental failure mechanisms and flow patterns involved in the process of fluid injection into dense granular media. The experimental work is conducted with aqueous glycerin solutions, utilizing a novel setup based on a Hele-Shaw cell filled with dense dry sand. The two dimensional nature of the setup allows direct visualization and imaging analysis of the real-time fluid and grain kinematics. The experimental results reveal that the fluid flow patterns show a transition from simple radial flow to a ramified morphology while the granular media behaviors change from that of rigid porous media to localized failure that lead to development of fluid channels. Based on the failure/flow patterns, four distinct failure/flow regimes can be identified, namely, (i) a simple radial flow regime, (ii) an infiltration-dominated regime, (iii) a grain displacement-dominated regime, and (iv) a viscous fingering-dominated regime. These distinct failure/flow regimes emerge as a result of competition among various energy dissipation mechanisms, namely, viscous dissipation through infiltration, dissipation due to grain displacements, and viscous dissipation through flow in thin channels and can be classified based on the characteristic times associated with fluid injection, hydromechanical coupling and viscoelastoplasticity. The injection process is also analyzed numerically using the discrete element method (DEM) coupled with two fluid flow scheme, a fixed coarse grid scheme based on computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and a pore network modeling scheme. The numerical results from the two complementary methods reproduce phenomena consistent with the experimental observations and justify the concept of associating the displacement regimes with the partition among energy dissipation mechanisms. The research in this work, though fundamental in nature, will have direct impacts on many engineering problems in civil, environmental and petroleum engineering such as ground improvement, environmental remediation and reservoir stimulation.
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