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Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 5609571, 18 pages
Research Article

Rules for Flight Paths and Time of Flight for Flows in Porous Media with Heterogeneous Permeability and Porosity

Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering, Texas A&M University, 3116 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-3116, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Ruud Weijermars

Received 24 April 2017; Revised 18 November 2017; Accepted 3 December 2017; Published 31 December 2017

Academic Editor: Marco Petitta

Copyright © 2017 Lihua Zuo and Ruud Weijermars. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Porous media like hydrocarbon reservoirs may be composed of a wide variety of rocks with different porosity and permeability. Our study shows in algorithms and in synthetic numerical simulations that the flow pattern of any particular porous medium, assuming constant fluid properties and standardized boundary and initial conditions, is not affected by any spatial porosity changes but will vary only according to spatial permeability changes. In contrast, the time of flight along the streamline will be affected by both the permeability and porosity, albeit in opposite directions. A theoretical framework is presented with evidence from flow visualizations. A series of strategically chosen streamline simulations, including systematic spatial variations of porosity and permeability, visualizes the respective effects on the flight path and time of flight. Two practical rules are formulated. Rule  1 states that an increase in permeability decreases the time of flight, whereas an increase in porosity increases the time of flight. Rule  2 states that the permeability uniquely controls the flight path of fluid flow in porous media; local porosity variations do not affect the streamline path. The two rules are essential for understanding fluid transport mechanisms, and their rigorous validation therefore is merited.