Newton trust-region methods with primary variable switching for simulating high temperature multiphase porous media flow

Heeho D. Park, Matthew Paul, Glenn E. Hammond, Albert J. Valocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Coupling multiphase flow with energy transport due to high temperature heat sources introduces significant new challenges since boiling and condensation processes can lead to dry-out conditions with subsequent re-wetting. The transition between two-phase and single-phase behavior can require changes to the primary dependent variables adding discontinuities as well as extending constitutive nonlinear relations to extreme physical conditions. Practical simulations of large-scale engineered domains lead to Jacobian systems with a very large number of unknowns that must be solved efficiently using iterative methods in parallel on high-performance computers. Performance assessment of potential nuclear repositories, carbon sequestration sites and geothermal reservoirs can require numerous Monte-Carlo simulations to explore uncertainty in material properties, boundary conditions, and failure scenarios. Due to the numerical challenges, standard NR iteration may not converge over the range of required simulations and require more sophisticated optimization method like trust-region. We use the open-source simulator PFLOTRAN for the important practical problem of the safety assessment of future nuclear waste repositories in the U.S. DOE geologic disposal safety assessment Framework. The simulator applies the PETSc parallel framework and a backward Euler, finite volume discretization. We demonstrate failure of the conventional NR method and the success of trust-region modifications to Newton's method for a series of test problems of increasing complexity. Trust-region methods essentially modify the Newton step size and direction under some circumstances where the standard NR iteration can cause the solution to diverge or oscillate. We show how the Newton Trust-Region method can be adapted for Primary Variable Switching (PVS) when the multiphase state changes due to boiling or condensation. The simulations with high-temperature heat sources which led to extreme nonlinear processes with many state changes in the domain did not converge with NR, but they do complete successfully with the trust-region methods modified for PVS. This implementation effectively decreased weeks of simulation time needing manual adjustments to complete a simulation down to a day. Furthermore, we show the strong scalability of the methods on a single node and multiple nodes in an HPC cluster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104285
JournalAdvances in Water Resources
StatePublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • High temperature
  • Miscible
  • Multiphase flow
  • Nonisothermal
  • Porous media
  • Trust-region

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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