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Transport in Porous Media (2006) 63: 5769

DOI 10.1007/s11242-005-2720-3

Springer 2006

A Criterion for Non-Darcy Flow


in Porous Media
ZHENGWEN ZENG and REID GRIGG
Petroleum Recovery Research Center, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology,
Socorro, NM 87801, U.S.A. e-mails: {zeng,reid}@prrc.nmt.edu
(Received: 28 October 2003; accepted: 11 February 2005)
Abstract. Non-Darcy behavior is important for describing uid ow in porous media in
situations where high velocity occurs. A criterion to identify the beginning of non-Darcy
ow is needed. Two types of criteria, the Reynolds number and the Forchheimer number,
have been used in the past for identifying the beginning of non-Darcy ow. Because each
of these criteria has different versions of denitions, consistent results cannot be achieved.
Based on a review of previous work, the Forchheimer number is revised and recommended here as a criterion for identifying non-Darcy ow in porous media. Physically,
this revised Forchheimer number has the advantage of clear meaning and wide applicability. It equals the ratio of pressure drop caused by liquidsolid interactions to that by
viscous resistance. It is directly related to the non-Darcy effect. Forchheimer numbers are
experimentally determined for nitrogen ow in Dakota sandstone, Indiana limestone and
Berea sandstone at owrates varying four orders of magnitude. These results indicate that
supercial velocity in the rocks increases non-linearly with the Forchheimer number. The
critical Forchheimer number for non-Darcy ow is expressed in terms of the critical nonDarcy effect. Considering a 10% non-Darcy effect, the critical Forchheimer number would
be 0.11.
Key words: non-Darcy behavior, Reynolds number, Forchheimer number, critical value.

Nomenclature
sample cross-sectional area, cm2
characteristic length of the porous media, cm
pore throat diameter, cm
particle diameter, cm
non-Darcy effect
critical non-Darcy effect
Forchheimer number
critical Forchheimer number
permeability, 1015 m2
permeability at zero velocity, 1015 m2
sample length, cm

A
d
dt
Dp
E
Ec
Fo
F oc
k
k0
l


Author for correspondence

58
M
p
p1
p2
Q
Qp
r
R
Re
T
u
v
x
X
y
Y
z
Z

ZHENGWEN ZENG AND REID GRIGG

molecular weight of the uid (gas), g/mol


pressure, atm
pressure at sample inlet, atm
pressure at sample outlet, atm
owrate, cm3 /h
owrate in the pump, cm3 /h
radius of pore throat, cm
universal gas constant, atm-cm3 /(g-mol-K)
Reynolds number
temperature, K
intrinsic velocity of the uid, cm/s
supercial velocity of the uid, cm/s
dummy variable
direction of uid ow
dummy variable
direction normal to uid ow
gas compressibility factor
direction normal to uid ow
non-Darcy coefcient, 108 m1
porosity
uid viscosity, Pa-s
uid density, g/cm3
uid density in the pump, g/cm3

1. Introduction
Fluid ow in porous media is an important dimension in many areas of
reservoir engineering, such as petroleum, environmental and groundwater
hydrology. Accurate description of uid ow behavior in the porous media is
essential to the successful design and operation of projects in these areas.
Darcys law depicts uid ow behavior in porous media. According to
Darcys law, the pressure gradient is linearly proportional to the uid velocity
in the porous media. The one-dimensional Darcy equation can be written as
dp v

=
,
(1)
dX
k
where p is the pressure, X is the direction of uid ow, is the viscosity,
v is the supercial velocity, and k is the permeability.
The Darcy equation is an empirical relationship based on experimental observations of one-dimensional water ow through packed sands at
low velocity. Efforts have been made to derive it theoretically via different
approaches. Using the volumetric averaging theory, Whitaker (1969) derived
the permeability tensor for the Darcy equation under low velocities. Following a continuum approach, Hassanizadeh and Gray (1980) developed a
set of equations to describe the macroscopic behavior of uid ow through
porous media. Linearization of these equations yields a Darcy equation at
low velocities. All these and other similar work indicate that Darcys law

A CRITERION FOR NON-DARCY FLOW IN POROUS MEDIA

59

is an approximation in describing the phenomenon of uid ow in porous


media, and is valid under a limited range of low velocities.
Experimentally, uid ow deviations from Darcys law have long been
observed. Various terms, such as non-Darcy ow, turbulent ow, inertial
ow, high velocity ow, etc., have been used to describe this behavior
(Firoozabadi and Katz, 1979). Many attempts have been made to correct the Darcy equation. Forchheimer (1901) added a second order of the
velocity term to represent the microscopic inertial effect, and corrected the
Darcy equation into the Forchheimer equation:

dp v
+ v 2 ,
=
k
dX

(2)

where is the non-Darcy coefcient and is the uid density.


Considering the macroscopic shearing effect between the uid and the
pore walls, Brinkman (1947) added the second-order derivatives of the
velocity to the Darcy equation, resulting in the Brinkman equation (Civan
and Tiab, 1991):
 2

p v
v
2v

+
,
(3)
X
k
Y 2 Z 2
where X, Y and Z are mutually perpendicular directions.
In most porous media, pore diameter is very small and the change of
velocity across the pore throat is negligible; thus the Brinkman equation
will not be further discussed in this work, and the term non-Darcy is used
in place of inertial effect.
Non-Darcy behavior has shown signicant inuence on well performance. Holditch and Morse (1976) numerically investigated the non-Darcy
effect on effective fracture conductivity and gas well productivity. Their
results show that at the near-wellbore region, non-Darcy ow could reduce
the effective fracture conductivity by a factor of 20 or more, and gas production by 50%. Non-Darcy effect on hydraulically fractured wells has also
been conrmed by others (Guppy et al., 1982; Matins et al., 1990).
Due to the importance of the non-Darcy effect, efforts have been made
to include it in well performance simulations (Ewing et al., 1999). However,
its inclusion dramatically increases the expense of numerical simulation
with a high order of approximation (Garanzha et al., 2000). A criterion for
predicting non-Darcy ow in porous media is needed.
The earliest work on the criterion for non-Darcy ow behavior in
porous media was apparently published by Chilton and Colburn (1931).
Due to previous belief that non-Darcy ow in porous media was similar to
turbulent ow in a conduit, the Reynolds number for identifying turbulent
ow in conduits was adapted to describe non-Darcy ow in porous media.

60

ZHENGWEN ZENG AND REID GRIGG

These authors conducted uid ow experiments on packed particles, and


redened the Reynolds number, Re, as
Re =

Dp v
,

(4)

where Dp is the diameter of particles. Their experiments show that the critical Reynolds number for non-Darcy ow to become signicant is in the
range of 4080.
Fancher and Lewis (1933) owed crude oil, water, and air through unconsolidated sands, lead shot, and consolidated sandstones. Using Chilton and
Colburns denition of the Reynolds number, their experimental results show
that non-Darcy ow occurs at Re = 10 1000 in unconsolidated porous
media and at (Re) = 0.4 3 in loosely consolidated rocks. Here the particle
diameter for the loosely consolidated rocks was obtained by screen analysis
from the carefully ground rock samples.
Realizing the difculty of determining the particle diameter, Green and
Duwez (1951) used permeability, k, and non-Darcy coefcient, , to redene the Reynolds number, which can be written as
Re =

kv
.

(5)

They conducted N2 ow experiments through four different porous


metal samples. Results show that non-Darcy behavior started at Re = 0.1
0.2.
By including porosity, , and using intrinsic velocity, u (the true velocity of the uid in the pores), Ergun (1952) modied Chilton and Colburns
denition, which can be written as
Re =

Dp u 1
.
1

(6)

From experiments with gas ow through packed particles, Ergun observed


a critical value of Re = 310.
In comments on previous work, Bear (1972) suggested a critical Reynolds
number of 3 to 10; while in a review, Scheidegger (1974) noted a range of
0.175. Hassanizadeh and Gray (1987) believed critical value Re = 1 15,
and suggested Re = 10 as a critical value for non-Darcy ow; from this
assumption they concluded that non-Darcy ow behavior is due to the
increase of the microscopic viscous force at high velocity.
Since the late 1980s, numerical modeling on this topic has increased rapidly. Blick and Civan (1988) used a capillaryorice model to simulate uid
ow in porous media. Based on that model, the critical Reynolds number dened in Equation (4) for non-Darcy behavior is 100, below which
Darcys law is valid.

A CRITERION FOR NON-DARCY FLOW IN POROUS MEDIA

61

Du Plessis and Masliyah (1988) used a representative unit cell to model


uid ow in porous media. They derived a relationship between porosity
and tortuosity, which further led to a correlation between Reynolds number and tortuosity. Their results show that a critical Re can be from 3 to
17.
Ma and Ruth (1993) numerically simulated non-Darcy behavior using a
divergingconverging model. They dened Reynolds number as
Re =

dt u

(7)

and a new criterion, the Forchheimer number, Fo, as


Fo=

k0 v
,

(8)

where dt is the throat diameter, and k0 is the permeability at zero velocity from Darcys law. From that work, the authors found that the critical
Reynolds number is 310 while the corresponding Forchheimer number is
0.0050.02.
Andrade et al. (1998) modeled uid ow in a disordered porous media.
Following the denition of Equation (5), they showed that the critical Reynolds number is 0.010.1.
Thauvin and Mohanty (1998) used a network model to simulate the
porous media. They dened the Reynolds number as
rv
Re =
,
(9)

where r is the pore throat radius. Their result shows that critical Reynolds
number is 0.11.
In summary, there have been two types of criteria for non-Darcy ow in
porous media: Type-I represented by Equation (4), and Type-II by Equation (5). Critical values for non-Darcy ow vary from 1 to 100 for the
Type-I criterion, and from 0.005 to 0.2 for the Type-II criterion. The TypeI criterion has been applied mainly for columns of packed particles in
which characteristic length, usually representative particle diameter, is available, whereas the Type-II criterion has been used mainly in numerical models, except for one in articial porous metal samples.
Due to inconsistency in denitions and thus in critical values, no widely
accepted criterion for non-Darcy ow in porous media is available. This
paper addresses this problem. The following questions will be answered: (1)
Which criterion is recommended? (2) What is the physical meaning of this
criterion? (3) What is the critical value for the beginning of a signicant
non-Darcy effect? And (4) using this criterion, what is the error if the nonDarcy effect is ignored?

62

ZHENGWEN ZENG AND REID GRIGG

2. Recommendation of the Forchheimer Number


Historically the term Reynolds number was used in both the Type-I and
Type-II criteria as shown in the previous section. The term Forchheimer
number was later introduced to represent the Type-II criterion (Ma and
Ruth, 1993). In order to avoid future confusion, the Type-I criterion is
hereafter called the Reynolds number, Re, and redened as
Re =

dv
,

(10)

where d is a characteristic length of the porous media.


The Type-II criterion is termed the Forchheimer number, Fo, and redened as
Fo=

kv
.

(11)

From the aforementioned review, it is seen that the Reynolds number is


only applicable to columns of packed particles, unconsolidated or loosely
consolidated sands. The Reynolds number has its root in the similar criterion for turbulent ow in a conduit. A logical result of this genetic connection is the inclusion of a characteristic length of the porous media in the
denition, Equation (10). This characteristic length is similar to the roughness of the conduit in the denition for turbulent ow in a pipe. However,
due to the complexity of the porous media structure, such a characteristic
length is not easily dened and determined. In the case of packed particles, a representative diameter can be used as the characteristic length. In
unconsolidated or loosely consolidated sands, this representative diameter
can be determined through analysis of particle-size distribution from the
crushed samples. However, the widely scattered critical values of this criterion indicate the need for a more well-dened representative diameter of the particles. Compared to its counterpart in the conduit ow,
the physical meaning of the particle diameter needs to be better dened.
For consolidated rocks, this criterion is not applicable without an acceptable denition of characteristic length. Therefore, the Reynolds number criterion is not recommended.
In contrast, the Forchheimer number has the advantage of clear denition, sound physical meaning, and wide applicability. In Equation (11),
all the involved parameters are clearly dened, and can be determined.
It is obvious that this revised denition can be applied to all types of
porous materials, as long as the permeability and non-Darcy coefcient can
be determined experimentally, or empirically when no experimental data is
available (Li and Engler, 2001). In fact, several researchers have expressed
their preference for using this type of criterion (Geertsma, 1974; Martins

A CRITERION FOR NON-DARCY FLOW IN POROUS MEDIA

63

et al., 1990; Gidley, 1991). For all these reasons, the Forchheimer number
revised in Equation (11) is recommended as the criterion for non-Darcy
ow in porous media.
3. Theoretical Analysis of the Forchheimer Number
In the Forchheimer equation, Equation (2), the left-hand-side term,
(dp/dX), is the total pressure gradient. The rst term in the right-handside, (v/k), can be considered as the pressure gradient required to overcome
viscous resistance. Similarly, the second term, v 2 , is the pressure gradient
needed to overcome liquidsolid interactions. The ratio of the liquid-solid
interaction pressure gradient to that by viscous resistance leads to (kv/),
which is the Forchheimer number dened in Equation (11). Therefore, the
Forchheimer number is the ratio of liquidsolid interaction to viscous resistance.
Dening the non-Darcy effect, E, as the ratio of pressure gradient consumed in overcoming liquidsolid interactions to the total pressure gradient, from Equation (2), leads to
E=

v 2
dp
dX

(12)

Using Equation (2) to eliminate (dp/dX) in Equation (12), and then


combining Equations (11) and (12) gives
E=

Fo
.
1+Fo

(13)

Thus from Equation (13), it can be seen that the Forchheimer number is
directly connected to the non-Darcy error, i.e. the error of ignoring nonDarcy behavior. Such a connection will be useful to numerical simulation
of uid ow in porous media for practitioners to determine the trade-off
on whether to include the non-Darcy effect or not in their model.
4. Determination of Forchheimer Number
4.1. measurement of

and

According to Equation (11), the determination of the Forchheimer number, Fo, requires the permeability, k, the non-Darcy coefcient, , the uid
density, , the supercial velocity, v and the viscosity, . In this section, Forchheimer numbers of three representative rocks (Dakota sandstone, Indiana limestone, and Berea sandstone) under a range of owrates
are determined using experimentally measured k and .

64

ZHENGWEN ZENG AND REID GRIGG

In order to measure k and , gas ow experiments were conducted


using a high pressure/high temperature gas ooding device (Zeng et al.,
2003). Cylindrical samples of 2.54 cm (1-in.) diameter by 5.08 cm (2-in.)
length were put in a triaxial coreholder. Hydrostatic pressure of 272 atm
(4000 psi) was applied. After thermal equilibrium was reached in the sample at 311 K (100 F), nitrogen started to ow through the sample. The
owrate, controlled by an accurate pump, varied from 25 to 10,000 cm3 /h
under 136 atm (2,000 psi) and 300 K (80 F) in the pump. At each owrate,
the pressures, p1 and p2 , at the inlet and outlet of the sample were measured when ow equilibrium was reached. Using these experimental measurements, k and were calculated as follows.
Under the gas ow experimental conditions, Equation (2) can be rewritten as:




MA p12 p22
p Qp
1
,
(14)
= +
2zRT lp Qp k
A
where M is the molecular weight of the gas (nitrogen), A is the cross-sectional area of the sample, p1 is the pressure at the sample inlet, p2 is the
pressure at the sample outlet, z is the gas compressibility factor, R is the
universal gas constant, T is the temperature in the sample, is the gas
viscosity in the sample, l is the sample length, p is the gas density in the
pump, and Qp is the gas owrate in the pump (Cornell and Katz, 1953).
In Equation (14), M and R are constants; l and A are sample size; T
and Qp are preset variables; p1 and p2 are measured under owrate Qp ;
p is calculated using phase behavior simulators with preset pump pressure
and temperature (CALSEP, 2002); and z and are calculated using phase
behavior simulator with temperature and mean gas pressure, (p1 + p2 )/2, in
the sample. Thus, only k and are unknowns.
For the sake of simplicity, denote p Qp /A as x, and MA(p12 p22 )/
2zRT lp Qp as y. Equation (14) then simplies to
1
y = + x.
(15)
k
Equation (15) denes a linear equation in the xy coordinate system, with
slope and intercept on y-axis 1/k. This sets the foundation for the determination of k and .
At each ow rate, a pair of (p1 , p2 ) are measured, and a pair of (x, y)
are calculated. For different owrates, different pairs of (x, y) are obtained,
and the straight line in the xy coordinate system is dened. From this
straight line, k and are determined. Figure 1 shows the determination of
k and in Dakota sandstone. Similarly, k and in Indiana limestone and
Berea sandstone are determined. Results of k and together with porosity
of these three rocks are shown in Table I (Zeng et al., 2004).

65

A CRITERION FOR NON-DARCY FLOW IN POROUS MEDIA


1000
y = 157.88x + 287.36
R2 = 0.99

y, 1012 m -2

800
600
400

k = (287.36*1012m-2)-1 = 3.48*10-15m2
8 -1
= 157.88*10 m

200
0
0

x, 104m -1

Figure 1. Determination of permeability and non-Darcy coefcient from gas ow


experiment in Dakota sandstone at 311 K (100 F), 34 atm (500 psi) pore pressure
and 272 atm (4000 psi) hydrostatic conning pressure.
Table I. Measured permeability and non-Darcy coefcient
Parameter

Dakota sandstone

Indiana limestone

Berea sandstone

k, 1015 m2
, 108 m1

3.48
157.88
0.14

21.6
36.00
0.15

196
2.88
0.18

4.2. calculation of supercial velocity


The supercial velocity, v, in the sample is calculated for each owrate as
follows: Assuming there is no loss of nitrogen in the ow system due to
leakage, reaction or any other reasons, the mass owing out from the pump
equals that owing through the sample. Therefore, the mass owrate in the
pump is the same as that in the core sample at ow equilibrium, though
the volumetric owrates can be different due to the change of pressures
and temperatures. On the other hand, the mass owrate equals the product of the density and the volumetric owrate, therefore,
Q = p Qp ,

(16)

where is the nitrogen density and Q is the volumetric owrate, both


under the sample conditions. Similar to the calculation of z and , the
density of nitrogen in the sample is calculated using phase behavior simulators (CALSEP, 2002).
Q can be dened as
Q = vA,

(17)

therefore, the supercial velocity in the core sample at each owrate is


v=

p Qp
.
A

(18)

66

ZHENGWEN ZENG AND REID GRIGG

4.3. calculation of

Fo

So far, all the variables in Equation (11) have been dened. Therefore
the Forchheimer number can be calculated. Table II shows the supercial
velocity and the Forchheimer number of the three rocks under each owrate. Figure 2 shows that the Forchheimer number increases and is nonlinear, with supercial velocity. This implies that supercial velocity alone
does not serve as a criterion for the non-Darcy behavior. Referring to the
permeability of these three rocks shown in Table I, it is observed that the
higher the permeability, the higher the owrate required to deviate from
the linear relationship. This is consistent with the fact that non-Darcy
behavior is more severe in low permeability porous media.

5. Critical Forchheimer Number


One reason that a new criterion is needed is the inconsistency of a critical
value for the beginning of non-Darcy ow behavior from existing criteria.
If a critical value can be given, it would be very helpful for practitioners
to decide when to include, or not to include, non-Darcy behavior in calculating uid ow in porous media.
Previous efforts have focused on nding the starting point of the departure
of the linear Darcy prediction from the observed, non-linear performance in

Table II. Forchheimer number and supercial velocity in the three rocks at 311 K (100 F),
34 atm (500 psi) pore pressure and 272 atm (4000 psi) hydrostatic conning pressure

Pump owrate

Dakota sandstone

Indiana limestone

Berea sandstone

Qp , cm3 /h
25
50
100
200
300
400
600
800
1000
1500
2000
3000
4000
6000
8000
10,000

v, cm/s
0.006
0.011
0.022
0.044
0.066
0.087
0.127
0.166
0.203
0.286
0.363
0.489
0.592
0.755
0.876
0.975

v, cm/s

Fo

v, cm/s

Fo

0.041
0.062
0.082
0.123
0.163
0.203
0.301
0.396
0.576
0.742
1.035
1.280
1.489

0.069
0.104
0.139
0.208
0.277
0.347
0.520
0.693
1.037
1.380
2.060
2.732
3.395

0.107
0.170
0.192
0.320
0.426
0.637
0.846
1.256
1.658
2.046

0.125
0.200
0.225
0.376
0.502
0.753
1.004
1.505
2.008
2.509

Fo
0.006
0.012
0.024
0.048
0.071
0.095
0.143
0.190
0.237
0.355
0.471
0.701
0.928
1.373
1.804
2.227

Superficial velocity, cm/s

A CRITERION FOR NON-DARCY FLOW IN POROUS MEDIA

67

2.5
2.0
1.5
1.0
Dakota SS
Indiana LS

0.5

Berea SS

0.0
0

1
2
3
Forchheimer number

Figure 2. Change of supercial velocity with Forchheimer number in Dakota sandstone, Indiana limestone and Berea sandstone.

different forms. The most commonly mentioned ones include friction factor
versus Reynolds number curve, and the pressure drop versus owrate curve.
Because of the restriction of resolution, the visually identied critical point
for the starting of non-Darcy behavior is usually not accurate, and thus less
dependable.
On the other hand, the Forchheimer number is directly related to the
non-Darcy effect, as shown in Equation (13). Denoting Ec as the critical
value for non-Darcy effect, from Equation (13) the critical Forchheimer
number would be
F oc =

Ec
.
1 Ec

(19)

Equation (19) offers the user the choice of selecting the critical Forchheimer
number based on the features of the problem.
For example, if 10% is the limit of the non-Darcy effect, Equation (19)
would give a critical Forchheimer number of 0.11. Although this value is
much higher than that from numerical simulation (Ma and Ruth, 1993),
it is quite close to the critical value observed in experiments of gas ow
through porous metal samples (Green and Duwez, 1951). Values can easily
be selected that are within ranges that can be experimentally determined in
reservoir core samples and thus can be considered as a good reference for
the critical Forchheimer number.
6. Conclusions
(1) The two types of non-Darcy criteria, the Reynolds number and
the Forchheimer number, for uid ow in porous media have been
reviewed. A revised Forchheimer number dened in Equation (11) is
recommended due to the clear meaning of variables involved.

68

ZHENGWEN ZENG AND REID GRIGG

(2) The Forchheimer number represents the ratio of pressure drop consumed by liquidsolid interactions to that by viscous resistance. It has
a direct relation to non-Darcy effect, as shown in Equation (13).
(3) Forchheimer numbers for nitrogen ow at varied owrates in Dakota
sandstone, Indiana limestone and Berea sandstone are determined using
experimentally measured permeability and non-Darcy coefcient. The
results add considerably to the array of Forchheimer numbers for characterizing uid ow in consolidated rocks.
(4) An expression for the critical Forchheimer number is given in terms of
non-Darcy effect limit. This non-Darcy effect-based expression allows
the user to dene the critical Forchheimer number according to the features of the problem, and should be scientically more reasonable in
comparing to a xed critical value. A good reference for the critical
Forchheimer number is 0.11, which corresponds to a 10% non-Darcy
effect.

Acknowledgements
The experiments were conducted in the gas ooding laboratory at the New
Mexico Petroleum Recovery Research Center (PRRC) with the assistance
of S. Ganda, D. B. Gupta, and Bob Svec. Elizabeth Bustamante located
some obscure literature for this research. The research is nancially supported by the US Department of Energy and the state of New Mexico,
USA.
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