Direct numerical simulation of fully saturated flow in natural porous media at the pore scale: a comparison of three computational systems

M. Siena, J. D. Hyman, M. Riva, A. Guadagnini, C. L. Winter, P. K. Smolarkiewicz, P. Gouze, S. Sadhukhan, F. Inzoli, G. Guédon, E. Colombo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Direct numerical simulations of flow through two millimeter-scale rock samples of limestone and sandstone are performed using three diverse fluid dynamic simulators. The resulting steady-state velocity fields are compared in terms of the associated empirical probability density functions (PDFs) and key statistics of the velocity fields. The pore space geometry of each sample is imaged at 5.06−μm voxel size resolution using X-ray microtomography. The samples offer contrasting characteristics in terms of total connected porosity (about 0.31 for the limestone and 0.07 for the sandstone) and are typical of several applications in hydrogeology and petroleum engineering. The three-dimensional fluid velocity fields within the explicit pore spaces are simulated using ANSYS® FLUENT® ANSYS Inc. (2009), EULAG Prusa et al. (Comput. Fluids 37, 1193–1207 2008), and SSTOKES Sarkar et al. (2002). These computational approaches are highly disperse in terms of algorithmic complexity, differ in terms of their governing equations, the adopted numerical methodologies, the enforcement of internal no-slip boundary conditions at the fluid-solid interface, and the computational mesh structure. As metrics of comparison to probe in a statistical sense the internal similarities/differences across sample populations of velocities obtained through the computational systems, we consider (i) integral quantities, such as the Darcy flux and (ii) main statistical moments of local velocity distributions including local correlations between velocity fields. Comparison of simulation results indicates that mutually consistent estimates of the state of flow are obtained in the analyzed samples of natural pore spaces despite the considerable differences associated with the three computational approaches. We note that in the higher porosity limestone sample, the structures of the velocity fields obtained using ANSYS FLUENT and EULAG are more alike than either compared against the results obtained using SSTOKES. In the low-porosity sample, the structures of the velocity fields obtained by EULAG and SSTOKES are more similar than either is to the fields obtained using ANSYS FLUENT. With respect to macroscopic quantities, ANSYS FLUENT and SSTOKES provide similar results in terms of the average vertical velocity for both of the complex microscale geometries considered, while EULAG tends to render the largest velocity values. The influence of the pore space structure on fluid velocity field characteristics is also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)423-437
Number of pages15
JournalComputational Geosciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Computational model comparison
  • Eulerian grid-based methods
  • Immersed boundary method
  • Pore-scale flow simulation
  • Porous media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computers in Earth Sciences
  • Computational Mathematics
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics


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