The gravitationally driven flow of a dense fluid within a two-layered porous media is examined experimentally and theoretically. We find that in systems with two horizontal layers of differing permeability a competition between gravity driven flow and flow focusing along high-permeability routes can lead to two distinct flow regimes. When the lower layer is more permeable than the upper layer, gravity acts along high-permeability pathways and the flow is enhanced in the lower layer. Alternatively, when the upper layer is more permeable than the lower layer, we find that for a sufficiently small input flux the flow is confined to the lower layer. However, above a critical flux fluid preferentially spreads horizontally within the upper layer before ultimately draining back down into the lower layer. This later regime, in which the fluid overrides the low-permeability lower layer, is important because it enhances the mixing of the two fluids. We show that the critical flux which separates these two regimes can be characterized by a simple power law. Finally, we briefly discuss the relevance of this work to the geological sequestration of carbon dioxide and other industrial and natural flows in porous media.
- geophysical and geological flows
- gravity currents
- porous media