Unstable Density-Driven Flow in Fractured Porous Media: The fractured Elder Problem

Paiman Shafabakhsh, Marwan Fahs, Behzad Ataie-Ashtiani, Craig T. Simmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
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The Elder problem is one of the well-known examples of an unstable density-driven flow (DDF) and solute transport in porous media. The goal of this research is to investigate the influence of fracture networks on this benchmark problem due to the great importance of the fractured heterogeneity effect on unstable DDF. For this aim, the fractured Elder problem is solved using COMSOL Multiphysics, which is a finite element method simulator. Uniform and orthogonal fracture networks are embedded to analyze free convective flow and development of unstable salt plumes. The results indicate that the mesh sensitivity of the fractured Elder problem is greater than the homogeneous case. Furthermore, it has been shown that in the fractured cases, the onset of instability and free convection occur with lower critical Rayleigh number, which means that fracture networks have a destabilizing effect. Also, we examined the structural properties of fracture networks that control convective flow patterns, and the simulation results show that the strength of convection and instability at the beginning of the intrusion is proportional to the aperture size of the fractures. Moreover, the increase of the fracture's density leads different modes of transient convective modes, until a specific fracture density after which the transient convective modes become similar to the homogenous case.

Original languageEnglish
Article number168
Number of pages18
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 9 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

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


  • Unstable Density
  • Elder problem
  • Fractured porous media


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