Discussion of liquid threshold pressure gradient

Xiukun Wang, James J. Sheng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Some authors believe that a minimum pressure gradient (called threshold pressure gradient (TPG)) is required before a liquid starts to flow in a porous medium. In a tight or shale oil formation, this TPG phenomenon becomes more important, as it is more difficult for a fluid to flow. In this paper, experimental data on TPG published in the literature are carefully reviewed. What we found is that a very low flow velocity corresponding to a very low pressure gradient cannot be measured in the experiments. Experiments can only be done above some measurable flow velocities. If these flow velocities and their corresponding pressure gradients are plotted in an XY plot and extrapolated to zero velocity, a non-zero pressure gradient corresponds to this zero velocity. This non-zero pressure gradient is called threshold pressure gradient in the literature. However, in the regime of very low velocity and very low pressure gradient, the data gradually approach to the origin of the plot, demonstrating a non-linear relationship between the pressure gradient and the velocity. But the data do not approach to a point of zero velocity and a threshold pressure gradient. Therefore, the concept of threshold pressure gradient is a result of data misinterpretation of available experimental data. The correct interpretation is that there are two flow regimes: nonlinear flow regime (non-Darcy flow regime) when the pressure gradients are low, and linear flow regime (Darcy flow regime) when the pressure gradient is intermediate or high. The nonlinear flow regime starts from the origin point. As the pressure gradient is increased, the curve becomes a straight line demonstrating the linear flow regime. We have verified our views by first analyzing the causes of non-Darcy flow, and then systematically analyzed typical experimental data and correlations in the literature. We conclude that TPG does not exist. We also use several counter examples to support our conclusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)232-236
Number of pages5
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2017


  • Low velocity non-Darcy flow
  • Shale oil reservoirs
  • Threshold pressure gradient
  • Tight oil reservoirs


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