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Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830

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A fully coupled 3-D mixed finite element model of Biot consolidation
Massimiliano Ferronato *, Nicola Castelletto, Giuseppe Gambolati
Dept. Mathematical Methods and Models for Scientific Applications, University of Padova, via Trieste 63, 35121 Padova, Italy

a r t i c l e

i n f o

Article history:
Received 16 September 2009
Received in revised form 3 March 2010
Accepted 14 March 2010
Available online 17 March 2010
Mixed finite elements
Biot consolidation
Coupled solution

a b s t r a c t
The numerical solution to the Biot equations of 3-D consolidation is still a challenging task
because of the ill-conditioning of the resulting algebraic system and the instabilities that
may affect the pore pressure solution. Recently new approaches have been advanced based
on mixed formulations. In the present paper a fully coupled 3-D mixed finite element
model is developed with the aim at alleviating the pore pressure numerical oscillations
at the interface between materials with different permeabilities. A solution algorithm is
implemented that takes advantage of the block structure of the discretized problem. The
proposed model is verified against well-known analytical solutions and successfully experimented with in realistic applications of soil consolidation.
Ó 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
Poro-elasticity denotes the coupled process between mechanics and flow in porous media. Its theoretical basis goes
back to the mid 1920s when Terzaghi described analytically the one-dimensional (1-D) consolidation of a soil column under a constant load [1]. In 1941 Biot generalized Terzaghi’s theory to three-dimensional (3-D) porous media [2] by establishing the mathematical framework which is usually termed as poro-elasticity. Even though sophisticated, and perhaps
more elegant, approaches have been recently advanced, e.g. [3], the Biot equations of consolidation are still used today
in a great variety of fields, ranging from reservoir engineering to biomechanics. For example, poro-elasticity is the basic
theory to predict the compaction of a producing hydrocarbon reservoir and the related hazards, including land subsidence
and borehole damages [4–6]. Several environmental issues connected with groundwater withdrawal, e.g. [7], or the safe
long-term disposal of wastes in the subsurface, e.g. [8], can be addressed with the aid of poro-elastic models. In biomechanics the poro-elastic theory is used to describe tumor-induced stresses in the brain [9] and the bone deformation under
a mechanical load [10].
Despite the intensive research in the area, the numerical solution to the Biot partial differential equations is still a challenging task for a number of reasons. First, the fully coupled approach leads to algebraic systems which can be quite difficult
to solve, with the number of unknowns easily growing up to several hundreds of thousands in real 3-D applications. Second,
the coefficient matrix resulting from the numerical discretization can be severely ill-conditioned especially at the early stage
of the process [11], hence advanced preconditioners and solvers are needed to handle the fully coupled system [12,13]. Another approach relies on the iteratively coupled scheme which solves separately in a staggered way the mechanical and the
fluid flow models until convergence. If sufficiently tight convergence criteria are prescribed, the iteratively coupled solution
can be as accurate as the fully coupled one, but the number of required steps might be prohibitively high. Moreover, convergence of the iterative procedure is not always guaranteed depending on the fluid and soil mechanical properties [14].

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +39 049 8271332; fax: +39 049 8271333.
E-mail address: (M. Ferronato).
URL: (M. Ferronato).
0021-9991/$ - see front matter Ó 2010 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

refinement. with the relationship linking the grain forces to the fluid pore pressure based on Terzaghi’s effective stress principle. stresses and displacements. The paper is organized as follows. such an occurrence takes place even if the fluid compressibility is different from zero but small enough with respect to the bulk compressibility. a mixed formulation for the flow problem is element-wise mass conservative because the normal flux is continuous across the element boundaries. This system can be solved with appropriate boundary: ð3Þ v and . / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 A third challenge is related to different forms of instabilities suffered by the numerical solution. The equilibrium equation for an isotropic poro-elastic medium incorporating the effective stress concept reads: lr2 u^ þ ðk þ lÞrdivu^ ¼ arp þ b ð1Þ ^ the medium displacements and p the fluid where k and l are the Lamé constants. The main reasons for the above choices are threefold. This form of instability appears at times smaller than a critical bound depending on the porous medium permeability and stiffness [16]. The fluid mass balance is prescribed by the continuity equation: divv þ @ ^Þ ¼ f ð/bp þ a divu @t ð2Þ where / is the medium porosity. The main advantage from the mixed approximation spaces relies on the possibility of solving nearly incompressible problems with no locking and a greater flexibility in describing independently pressures. Unfortunately. b the fluid compressibility. Mixed FE model of Biot consolidation The interaction between a granular material and the fluid filling its pores is governed by a stress equilibrium equation coupled to a mass balance equation. In practice. leading to FEs characterized by a linear pressure and a quadratic displacement. the proposed model is tested in two large-size realistic and numerically challenging applications with a few remarks closing the paper. However. A fully coupled algorithm is then derived. In the present paper a fully coupled 3-D mixed FE formulation is developed to solve numerically the Biot equations of consolidation with the aim at alleviating the instabilities in the pore pressure solution. t time. Second. the origin of most instabilities is due to the assumption that at the initial conditions the soil skeleton behaves as an incompressible medium if the pore fluid is so. a is the Biot coefficient. Finally. using the symmetric quasi-minimal residual (SQMR) solver [26] accelerated by a block preconditioner. Reed [17] observed that using a different approximation order for displacement and pressure may help keep the spurious oscillations under control. are thoroughly preserved. i. Post-processing techniques intended to smooth the spurious modes have been proposed with the aim at restoring the standard FE convergence rate [17. [21] have developed a least-square mixed model for poro-elasticity yielding a positive definite discrete problem. k  the hydraulic conductivity tensor and ðqgÞ the fluid specific weight. For example. A locally mass conservative approach coupling a mixed method for the flow problem with traditional FEs for the soil displacements has been proposed by Jha and Juanes [25] who suggest solving the overall model by an unconditionally stable sequential scheme. Tchonkova et al. b the body forces. and discretization of geometrically complex and heterogeneous domains. Eqs. 2. e. the practical advantages from using low-order interpolation elements. one order below the displacement. if an advection-dominated thermal process is associated to the Biot equations spurious oscillations may arise in the temperature and pressure fields because of sharp transient gradients [15].e. such as ease of implementation. Different remedies can be implemented to cope with such numerical difficulty. f a flow source or sink and v Darcy’s velocity. (2) must be coupled with Darcy’s law defining v: j 1 v þ rp ¼ 0  qgÞ. while linear tetrahedral FEs are used for the displacements. the mixed variational formulation is developed in a 3-D setting with the discrete system of ordinary differential equations integrated in time. with the relative merits discussed.4814 M. Third. while Phillips and Wheeler [22–24] have shown the theoretical convergence of two-dimensional (2-D) models that couple both continuous and discontinuous Galerkin elements for the displacements with mixed spaces for the fluid flow. Eq. The mixed FE model is verified against the well-known Terzaghi’s (1-D) and Mandel’s (2-D) analytical solutions and compared to the results obtained from a standard FE method. The fluid pore pressure and flux are approximated in the lowest order Raviart–Thomas mixed space. Ferronato et al.20]. to account for thermal effects or contaminant transport. More recently some approaches have been advanced based on mixed formulations. which typically causes an oscillatory numerical behaviour in the pore pressure. which can be of interest whenever a consolidation model is coupled with an advection–diffusion equation.g. After a brief review of the governing partial differential equations. For example. First. such FEs typically provide a less accurate prediction of the soil deformation [18] with the oscillations in the pore pressure not entirely eliminated [19]. In particular the pore pressure should be computed with the same approximation order as the stress.  ¼ k=ð with j ^. keeping the flux as a primary variable allows for a greater accuracy in the velocity field. Prescribing the volume change rate to be initially zero leads to the finite element (FE) pathology known as locking. u pore pressure. (1)–(3) form a coupled partial differential system defined on a 3-D domain X bounded by the frontier C with u p as unknowns.

tÞ u nn 5 4P ‘i ðxÞuz. i ¼ 1.i ðtÞ 2 ð6Þ i¼1 The fluid pore pressure pðx.i . tÞ > > : v ðx. . with Bu the strain elastic matrix) and rtot is the total stress vector (¼ ½rx. respectively. pðtÞ and qðtÞ whose components are the nodal displacements ux. A weak form of the coupled system (1)–(3) is obtained using the classical approaches followed in both elasto-statics and fluid-dynamics. The unknown functions u ^ ðx. Ferronato et al. n the outer normal to C and x the position vector in In Eqs. (4) and (5) CD [ CN ¼ Cp [ Cq ¼ C. the function wk gives rise to a unitary flux through the kth face and a null flux through all other faces. cyz . . Continuity of wk is ensured only along the normal direction relative to the kth face. .tot . tÞ > pðx. . Variational formulation The partial differential system (1)–(3) with boundary conditions (4) and initial conditions (5) is solved numerically using ^ . cxy . are the discrete unknowns of the variational problem. the integral form is found by minimizing the total potential energy in the domain X with the aid of the virtual work principle: Z X v . .i ðtÞ 7 u 7 ¼ Nu ðxÞuðtÞ 7 6 i¼1 7 6 ^ z ðx. according to the classical Voigt notation [28]. z .M.tot . uz. 2. tÞnðxÞ ¼ tN ðx. As for Eq. . tÞ u > > > <r  tot ðx. . .i ðtÞ 3 7 3 6 i¼1 7 6 ^ x ðx. nn . i ¼ 1. respectively. we set: pðx. The medium displacement u imated in the space generated by the continuous piecewise linear polynomials ‘i . while the right-hand sides are known functions. tÞ u 7 6P nn 6 6 7 ^ ðx.T rtot dX ¼ Z ^ v . p and v are found in an appropriate space such that the integral form of a variational formulation. 0Þ ¼ u ^ 0 ðxÞ u ð5Þ pðx. . respectively. Eq. rz. The vectors uðtÞ. . j ¼ 1. ne . nn . sxy. . tÞ ’ ne X T hj ðxÞpj ðtÞ ¼ h ðxÞpðtÞ ð7Þ wk ðxÞqk ðtÞ ¼ WðxÞqðtÞ ð8Þ j¼1 vðx. y .T b dX þ u X Z ^ v .i . tÞ and Darcy’s velocity v ðx.T tN dC u ð11Þ CN where. tÞ 5 ’ 6 ‘i ðxÞuy. (10) implies that wk is not zero over the tetrahedrons sharing the kth face and is discontinuous across it. The apex v denotes the virtual variables. Denoting by ne and nf the number of elements and faces.1. .tot . syz. .tot . tÞ  nðxÞ ¼ qN ðx.tot . tÞ 4815 over CD over CN ð4Þ over Cp over Cq and initial conditions:  ^ ðx. uy. r R3 . 0Þ ¼ p0 ðxÞ  tot is the total stress tensor.i . tÞ ¼ pD ðx. The ± sign in (10) identifies a conventional face orientation such that wk points outward the element T ðjÞ with the smallest index j. Recalling Terzaghi’s principle: . sxz. (1). Because of this orientation. tÞ are represented in the piecewise constant polynomial and lowest order Raviart–Thomas space. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 8 ^ ðx. the elemental pressures pj . ry. . . tÞ ¼ 4 u ^y ðx. . with nn the number of FE nodes in X: 2P nn ‘i ðxÞux. tÞ is approx(1)–(3) is satisfied for all test functions belonging to the corresponding space. k ¼ 1. and the face normal fluxes qk . cxz T ¼ Bu u. nf .  is the strain vector (¼ ½x . thus satisfying the LBB condition that ensures the well-posedness of the discrete problem [27]. tÞ ’ nf X k¼1 where hj are element-wise constant functions: ( hj ðxÞ ¼ 1 x 2 T ðjÞ 0 ð9Þ x 2 X  T ðjÞ and wk are vectorial functions in R3 associated to the kth face belonging to the jth tetrahedron T ðjÞ : ( wk ðxÞ ¼ ðxxk Þ x 2 T ðjÞ  3jVðT ðjÞ Þj ð10Þ x 2 X  T ðjÞ 0 with V the volume of T ðjÞ and xk the position vector of the node opposite to the kth face in T ðjÞ .tot T ). tÞ ¼ u ^ D ðx.

k ¼ 1. (20) and (21) is numerically integrated in time by a finite difference scheme. . with De the elastic constant matrix) and i the Kronecker delta in vectorial form. . Unlike standard FEs. Numerical implementation The system of differential-algebraic equations (14). syz . . 2. Using the approximations (6)–(8) gives: Z hdivv dX þ X Z Z h X  1 v dX þ WT j X Z @/bp dX þ @t Z h X W T rp dX ¼ 0 ^ @ adivu dX ¼ @t Z hf dX ð18Þ X ð19Þ X Assuming that /. (27) h is a scalar value comprised between 0 and 1. The discrete solution scheme thus obtained is the following: . ry . In Eq. whereas the Neumann boundary conditions are to be imposed in a strong way. the semi-discrete mixed FE expression of Eqs. (2) and (3) is obtained by a standard Galerkin approach.2. the Dirichlet boundary conditions are the natural conditions for Eq. b and a are independent of time and using a weak form for the last integral in Eq. and differentiating with respect to the virtual displacements. Consider any time-dependent function to vary linearly in time between t and t þ Dt. The integral form of Eqs. nf . (1): Ku  Q p ¼ f 1 ð14Þ where Z K¼ BTu De Bu dX X Z Q¼ aBTu ihT dX X f1 ¼ ð15Þ Z X ð16Þ Z NTu b dX þ CN NTu tN dC ð17Þ The Dirichlet boundary conditions along CD are prescribed in a strong way. (2) and (3) read: BT q þ Pp_ þ Q T u_ ¼ f 2 ð20Þ Aq  Bp ¼ f 3 ð21Þ where Z A¼  1 W dX WTj ð22Þ xhT dX ð23Þ X B¼ Z X P¼ Z T ð24Þ hf dX ð25Þ /bhh dX X f2 ¼ Z X f3 ¼  Z pD W T n dC ð26Þ Cp The components of x in (23) are equal to divðwk Þ. Eq. . Ferronato et al. rz . (21) and are therefore prescribed in a weak way. sxz T ¼ De . and approximate any timederivative at the intermediate instant s: s ¼ hðt þ DtÞ þ ð1  hÞt ð27Þ by a first-order incremental ratio. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 rtot ¼ r  api ð12Þ where r is the effective stress vector (¼ ½rx . sxy . (19). (11) yields: Z  Z Z Z BTu De Bu dX u  aBTu ip dX ¼ NTu b dX þ X X X NTu tN dC CN ð13Þ Introducing the pore pressure approximation (7) into (13) produces the final discrete form of Eq.4816 M.

/ Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 4817 h i   t tþDt h KutþDt  Q ptþDt ¼ ð1  hÞ Qpt  Kut þ f 1 þ hf 1 ð28Þ h i Q ut þ Ppt Q utþDt þ PptþDt t tþDt þ hBT qtþDt ¼ ð1  hÞ f 2  BT qt þ þ hf 2 Dt Dt h i ð29Þ T T h½AqtþDt  BptþDt  ¼ ð1  hÞ Bpt  Aqt þ t f3 þ tþDt hf 3 ð30Þ where the initial values used for q are consistent with the initial pressure space distribution p0 ðxÞ. a specific block version of a preconditioned Krylov subspace method is to be implemented. while A. (29) by Dt and Eq. The numerical solution at time t þ Dt can be therefore computed by solving a linear algebraic system: AztþDt ¼ f t ð31Þ where 2 QT P ðpÞ f ðuÞ f ðqÞ ptþDt 3 2 f ðpÞ 3 7 tþDt 6 tþDt 7 t 6 ðuÞ 7 ¼ 4u 5 f ¼ 4f 5 0 5 z ðqÞ qtþDt cB 0 cA f h i t tþDt ¼ ðDt  cÞ f 2  BT qt þ Q T ut þ Ppt þ cf 2 h i t tþDt ¼ w Kut  Q pt  f 1  f 1 h i t tþDt ¼ ðDt  cÞ Aqt  Bpt  f 3  cf 3 6 A¼4Q f 2 3 cBT K ð32Þ ð33Þ ð34Þ ð35Þ The matrix A in (31) has size ne þ 3nn þ nf and is sparse. is generally not convenient from a computational point of view. (28) by h. however. (38) and (39) could be computed exactly as P is diagonal. as both K and A are SPD and c is positive. Now consider the following A decomposition:  A¼ I 0 HP 1 I  P 0 0 S " I P 1 HT 0 I # ð38Þ where S is the SPD Schur complement: " 1 T S ¼ C þ HP H ¼ K þ QP 1 Q T cBP1 Q T cQP1 BT cA þ c2 BP1 BT # ð39Þ Eqs. A changes at each step because Dt. Suitable solvers for (31) belong to the class of the iterative projection-type Krylov subspace methods properly preconditioned. Write A as a 2  2 block matrix: " A¼ P HT H C # ð36Þ with:  H¼  Q  C¼ cB  K 0 0 cA ð37Þ Note that C is a block-diagonal symmetric positive definite (SPD) matrix. The explicit construction of A. hence c. Therefore.13]. B. we develop a variant of the block constraint approach successfully applied to standard FE consolidation models [12. K. however S turns out to be much less sparse than C. multiply Eq. P and Q can be computed just once at the beginning of the simulation as they do not depend on t. Ferronato et al. A simple approximation relies on prescribing the dropped S to preserve the same block-diagonal structure as C: " S’e S¼ e S1 0 0 e S2 # " ¼ K þ QP 1 Q T 0 0 cA þ c2 BP1 BT # ð40Þ The blocks e S 1 and e S 2 cannot be efficiently inverted.M. so an additional approximation is performed by replacing them with their incomplete Cholesky factorizations: " e S’ LS1 LTS1 0 0 LS2 LTS2 # ¼ LS LTS ð41Þ . symmetric and indefinite. can be generally increased as the consolidation proceeds. As far as the preconditioner is concerned. In fact. Set c ¼ hDt and w ¼ ð1  hÞ=h. hence it is convenient to drop some of its blocks. divide Eq. (30) by Dt.

s1 ¼ P 1 y s1 z 1  s1 8. Terzaghi’s problem [1] consists of a fluid-saturated column of height L with a constant loading P L on top (Fig. respectively. The repeated solution of Eq. Model verification The model is verified against both Terzaghi’s (1-D) and Mandel’s (2-D) consolidation problems. the analytical solution reads [31. tÞ ¼ 4 p p0 1 X m¼0 " #   1 ð2m þ 1Þ2 p2 ct ð2m þ 1Þpz sin exp 2 2m þ 1 2L 4L ( uðz. 3. 1. Assuming the z-axis positive downward. cM ¼ ðk þ 2lÞ1 the vertical uniaxial compressibility. it is compared to a standard FE model. (38) in place of the exact Schur complement S. (31) starting from the initial conditions (5) gives the discrete ^ . Finally.4818 M. s2 ¼ LT S z2 6. Ferronato et al. two realistic engineering applications are briefly addressed. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 e S is used in Eq.32]: pðz.g. A homogeneous sandy column with unit section and L ¼ 15 m is simulated. with the relevant hydraulic and mechanical properties given in Table 2. The load is applied instantaneously at time t ¼ 0 yielding a non-zero initial overpressure p0 ðzÞ and a corresponding settlement u0 ðzÞ. the model is verified against 1-D and 2-D analytical solutions. and c ¼ k=½qgðM 1 þ a2 cM Þ the consolidation coefficient. 2. 3. [29. The basement is fixed. K u ¼ k þ 2l=3 þ a2 M the undrained bulk modulus.1. . The prescribed distributed load P L is 104 Pa. Then. The preconditioner (42) is used to accelerate the SQMR solver [26] which has proved a robust and efficient algorithm for sparse symmetric indefinite problems. (38) and accounting for (41) yields: " M1 ¼ U 1 L1 ¼ I P 1 HT LT S 0 LT S #" # P1 0 1 L1 S HP L1 S ð42Þ with M1 the block constraint preconditioner (CP). (6)–(8). vectors u. z1 ¼ P 1 r1 t ¼ Hz1 t t  r2 z2 ¼ L1 S t 5. thus providing a factored approximation of A that can be used as preconditioner. First. 1). y ¼ H T s2 7. The time integration is performed with a first-order implicit scheme ðh ¼ 1Þ and a constant time step Dt ¼ 0:1 s. The column is discretized into regular tetrahedrals with a characteristic element size h ¼ 0:5 m (Fig. A good matching be- Table 1 CP application to a vector. 1). Drainage is allowed for through the upper moving boundary only. The resulting complete CP-SQMR algorithm for the solution of equations (31) is provided in Appendix A. The simulation proceeds until steady state conditions are attained. The algorithm for applying M1 to a vector r: s ¼ M1 r )  s1 s2 "  ¼ I P1 HT LT S 0 LT S #" P1 0 1 L1 S HP L1 S # r1 r2  ð43Þ is provided in Table 1. p and v through Eqs. Inverting Eq.30]. cbr the solid grain compressibility. e. 4. hence the approximate u 3. tÞ ¼ cM p0 ðL  zÞ  1 8L X p2 m¼0 1 ð2m þ 1Þ2 exp " # ð2m þ 1Þ2 p2 ct 4L2 ð44Þ  ) ð2m þ 1Þpz þ u0 cos 2L ð45Þ where aM PL K u þ 4l=3 1 u0 ðzÞ ¼ PL ðL  zÞ K u þ 4l=3 p0 ðzÞ ¼ ð46Þ ð47Þ with M ¼ ½/b þ ða  /Þcbr 1 the Biot modulus. p and q at the selected values of time. Numerical results The stability and accuracy of the 3-D mixed FE consolidation model previously described is investigated with the aid of a few examples.

0 0. In Terzaghi’s and Mandel’s consolidation tests the sample is made from sand only. The outer surfaces ðx ¼ aÞ are traction-free and drained. Mandel’s problem [33] consists of a poroelastic slab sandwiched between two rigid. a force per unit length in the y-direction. Porous medium ksand (m/s) 105 kclay (m/s) 108 0. as is shown in Figs. respectively.5 t = 3600 s 15.5 m θ = 1.0 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 Pressure [Pa] Fig.5 t = 1800 s 10.0 a tween the analytical and the numerical solution is obtained for both pore pressure and vertical displacement. is suddenly applied at t ¼ 0. The slab is infinitely long in the y-direction with a 2a  2b wide cross-section. The load 2F. 1.0 Analitycal solution Numerical solution 2.0 12. 2 and 3. 4. frictionless.e. i. both loaded by a constant vertical force as shown in Fig. namely [34]: Δ t = 0. Ferronato et al. zÞ. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 Fig.5 t = 60 s z [m] 5.0 ðx. zÞ and settlement ux.0 t = 600 s 7. .4819 M. and impermeable plates. zÞ and uz. causing both an instantaneous overpressure p0 ðx. Table 2 Hydraulic and mechanical parameters of the porous medium used for the model verification.1 s h = 0. 2.375 / b ðMPa1 Þ k (MPa) l (MPa) 4:4  104 40 40 1.0 ðx. Terzaghi’s consolidation test: analytical and numerical solutions for the pore pressure. Sketch of the setup for Terzaghi’s consolidation test: (a) 1-D physical problem and (b) numerical discretization.

5 15. x ¼ a=4.50e-04 5.0 0.00e+00 2.0 0. Fig.8 0.5 10. . 3. p/p0 1.0e-02 1.0e-01 dimensionless time. and x ¼ a=2.0 0. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 Δ t = 0. 1. Terzaghi’s consolidation test: analytical and numerical solutions for the vertical displacement.4 0.00e-04 7.6 Analytical solution at x = 0 Analytical solution at x = a/4 Analytical solution at x = a/2 Numerical solution 0.0 t = 60 s 2.1 s h = 0.5 t = 600 s 5. Ferronato et al. Mandel’s problem: pore pressure history at x ¼ 0.5 m θ = 1.0 1.0 t = 3600 s z [m] t = 1800 s 7.0e+00 2 Fig.25e-03 1. Sketch of the setup for Mandel’s problem: (a) 2-D physical problem after [34] and (b) numerical discretization. 4.00e-03 1.50e-04 1.0 Analytical solution Numerical solution 12.2 0.50e-03 u [m] Fig.2 normalized pressure.4820 M.0e-03 1. 5. ct/a 1.

1 s Δ t = 0. respectively. zÞ ¼ 2l a Fð1  mu Þ y uz.025 s 1. 6. Mandel’s problem: pore pressure profile along the x-axis at various times.4821 M. x/a Fig.2 0 0 0.5 s Analytical solution at t = 5 s Analytical solution at t = 10 s Numerical solution 0. 0 10 .0 pressure error tan an ¼  -4 10 -5 10 10 -2 10 -1 h .2 0. spacing h. 7.4 0.6 0.05 s Analytical solution at t = 0. zÞ ¼  2l a p0 ðx. p/p0 1 Analytical solution at t = 0. tÞ ¼ 2p0 1 X n¼1 m the undrained and drained Pois-  2  sin an an x an ct cos  cos an exp a a2 an  sin an cos an ð51Þ where an are the positive roots of the nonlinear equation: m a mu  m n ð52Þ 1.8 0. z. Ferronato et al.4 0.element size Fig. zÞ ¼ ð48Þ ð49Þ ð50Þ with B ¼ aM=K u Skempton’s coefficient.2 normalized pressure. Terzaghi’s consolidation test: L1 pressure error norm vs.8 0.0 ðx.05 s Δ t = 0. The analytical solution for the pore pressure reads [34]: pðx.6 1 normalized distance. -2 10 Δ t = 0.0 -3 10 1. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 1 Bð1 þ mu ÞF 3a F mu x ux.0 ðx. and mu ¼ ½3m þ aBð1  2mÞ=½3  aBð1  2mÞ and son’s ratio.

025 s 1. The pore pressure vs. CP-SQMR convergence profiles varying h with Dt ¼ 0:1 s (left) and varying Dt with h ¼ 0:5 m (right). 8. Notice the peculiar non-monotonic pressure behaviour. ranging from h ¼ 1 m to 0. The 2-D problem is solved using a 3-D cube as domain with appropriate boundary conditions to warrant a plane strain condition along the y-direction [35].0 -7 10 -8 10 -2 -1 10 0 10 10 h .0 -6 10 2. i. time and space is provided in Figs. the so-called Mandel–Cryer effect. Ferronato et al. In Fig.element size Fig. then convergence tends to deteriorate as h decreases. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 A homogeneous and isotropic slab is simulated using a ¼ b ¼ 1 m and the properties given in Table 2. A regular tetrahedral grid and an implicit ðh ¼ 1Þ integration in time are used. with h ¼ 0:0625 m and Dt ¼ 0:01 s. This agrees with the theoretical results provided in [23] for a 1-D formulation. 5 and 6. The convergence properties of the 3D mixed FE model have been investigated by comparing the analytical solutions (44) and (45) of Terzaghi’s consolidation problem at t ¼ 60 s with the numerical solution obtained on progressively refined computational grids. F is set equal to 104 N=m. The flattening portion of each profile is less pronounced as Dt is reduced.5000 m h = 0. 90 100 110 120 . The domain symmetry allows for limiting the study to a quarter only of the x–z plane (Fig.2500 m h = 0. 7 the L1 -norm of the pressure error is plotted vs. with the lack of convergence for any given Dt due to the time dis- -5 10 displacement error Δt = 0. Δ t = 0.0625 m.1 s Δt = 0.5 m 4 relative residual norm 1×10 -7 -8 -9 -10 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 iteration Fig. respectively.0625 m 2 1×10 1×10 h = 0. and shows a good agreement between the analytical and the numerical solution. An initially linear behaviour can be noticed.05 s Δt = 0. 4). h in a double log–log plot using a constant Dt value for each profile.e.1 s 1×10 1×10 1×10 3 relative residual norm 1×10 1×10 1×10 0 -1 -3 -4 1×10 1×10 1 -5 1×10 1×10 1×10 1×10 1×10 1×10 -8 1×10 -9 100 150 iteration 200 250 300 1×10 0 -1 -3 -5 -6 1×10 50 -2 Δ t = 10 s -1 Δ t = 10 s 0 Δ t = 10 s 1 Δ t = 10 s 1 -4 1×10 -7 0 2 -2 1×10 1×10 -6 1×10 3 1×10 -2 1×10 1×10 1×10 h = 0. spacing h.4822 M.1250 m h = 0. 9. Terzaghi’s consolidation test: L2 displacement error norm vs. with p rising above the initial p0 at small time values because of the slab contraction at the drained faces inducing an additional build-up in the interior.

/ Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 cretization error. Fig. 0. For example. 11.5 t = 3600 s 10.5 Reference solution FE Numerical solution steady state z [m] 5. . Ferronato et al. 8).0 t = 600 s 12.5 Reference solution Mixed FE Numerical solution steady state z [m] 5. Heterogeneous consolidation test: reference and mixed FE numerical solutions for the pore pressure. the theoretical quadratic convergence [23] is progressively lost as h decreases while Dt is kept constant.0 t = 600 s 12. Consistent with the pore pressure L1 -norm profile. 10. This may suggest that neglecting the off-diagonal blocks of the Schur complement is the most significant approximation introduced in the CP algorithm.0 2.5 t = 60 s 15. We observe on passing that using the S 2 in Eq. (41). at the cost of a much larger CPU time spent for the CP computation and application. 0. Heterogeneous consolidation test: reference and standard FE numerical solutions for the pore pressure.5 t = 3600 s 10. The different iteration count indicates that the conditioning of A gets worse as h decreases and Dt increases.0 2. 9 shows the relative residual norm: t rr ¼ kf  AztþDt k2 ð53Þ t kf k2 vs.5 15.0 -10000 t = 60 s -8000 -6000 -4000 -2000 0 2000 Pressure variation [Pa] Fig. in the problem with h ¼ 0:5 m and Dt ¼ 0:1 s convergence is achieved in 88 iterations instead of 113. does not provide a signifexact factorizations of e S 1 and e icant solver acceleration. Similar remarks hold true for the displacements using the L2 -norm of the error (Fig. the number of iterations required by the CP-SQMR algorithm of Appendix A to solve the linear system (31).4823 M.0 7.0 7. which is consistent with the numerical behaviour typically encountered in mixed FE models of subsurface flow [36].0 -10000 -8000 -4000 -6000 -2000 0 Pressure variation [Pa] Fig. in place of the incomplete Cholesky decompositions.

2. The computational grid is the same as in Fig. Fig.0 Reference solution FE Numerical solution Mixed FE Numerical solution 12. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 3. 10. with no oscillations at the sand–clay interface.0 7.4824 M.0 2. Heterogeneous consolidation test: reference and numerical solutions for the vertical displacement. 11 provides the pore pressure solution simulated by a standard FE model based on the same mesh and equal order pressure and displacement approximations. By contrast. For the sake of a comparison.0 2. Drainage is allowed for also on the bottom boundary where a pore pressure variation of 9810 Pa is prescribed. The porous column of Fig. the vertical displacement is stable and accurate in both the FE and mixed FE models (Fig. Comparison with standard FEs The stability of the numerical solution obtained with the Mixed FE model is investigated in a heterogeneous test problem. 0. The simulated pore pressure at different times is shown in Fig. The clay permeability is 1000 times smaller than sand (Table 2) while the elastic properties are the same. The numerical solution is close to the reference one and appears to be quite stable.5 t = 3600 s 10. The reference solution has been obtained by progressively refining both the tetrahedral mesh and the time step until convergence. 0. The top boundary is now traction-free.5 10.00e-04 8.0 -10000 t = 60 s -8000 -6000 -4000 -2000 0 2000 Pressure variation [Pa] Fig.00e-04 6.5 t = 3600 s t = 60 s t = 600 s 5.00e-04 4. 1 is now assumed to consist of 10 m of clay on top and 5 m of sand on bottom.0 0. . Heterogeneous consolidation test: reference and standard FE numerical solutions for the pore pressure on a regularly refined tetrahedral mesh so that the total number of unknowns equates that of the mixed FE model. 13. 1.5 Reference solution FE Numerical solution steady state z [m] 5. Ferronato et al. standard FEs exhibit pronounced initial pressure oscillations at the sand–clay interface. 12).00e-03 u [m] Fig. 12. Even in this simple problem.5 15.00e+00 2. The result used as a reference is obtained with h ¼ 0:03125 m and Dt ¼ 0:01 s.00e-04 1.0 z [m] steady state 7.5 15.0 t = 600 s 12.

819 1. respectively.597 1. time due to the application of a surface load. Axonometric view of the FE grid used in the realistic applications.732 1. kxx ¼ kyy (m/s) kzz =kxx / b ðMPa1 Þ k (MPa) l (MPa) a Clay Silt Sand 107 1 0.227 0. To have an idea. respectively. . 15. with an overall system Table 3 Hydro-geological properties of the shallow sediments in the upper Adriatic basin used in the realistic model applications.3 4:32  104 1. pressure and velocity.3 104 0. while the Mixed FE model totals 837.0 4:32  104 2. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 The stable pore pressure solution provided by the Mixed FE model is obtained at the cost of a larger number of unknowns. 720 and 1688 unknowns for displacement.0 4:32  104 1.1 0. 14.3 106 1 0. Ferronato et al.4825 M.0 Fig. the standard FE model has 837 and 279 displacement and pressure unknowns. Fig.819 1.227 0. Test case 1: pore pressure variation vs.

4826 M. The following additional boundary conditions apply: the outer boundary is fixed and drained.38].05 m. The load is set equal to 8 kN/m2 and is representative of an artificial gravel mound similar to that built at the inlets of the Venice 0 day 1 day 2 day 3 day 10 day 20 Δ z [m] -0. 14) with zero flux and horizontal displacement prescribed on the inner boundaries. 3. 356 nodes. The axial symmetry of the model geometry allows for the discretization of one fourth only of the overall porous volume (Fig.04 -0. 14. 368 faces with an overall model size equal to 253. 13). To have practically insignificant oscillations (650 Pa) the mesh size h at the sand–clay interface must be 60. time.3.37. oscillations in the pore pressure solution do not vanish. Fig. Italy. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 size equal to 3245. Test case 2: pore pressure variation 20 days after the start of pumping. a vertically regularly refined grid is used totaling nn ¼ 13.03 -0. 3. if the tetrahedral mesh is regularly refined so that the standard FE system size is three times larger. Ferronato et al.02 -0. the bottom is fixed and impervious. However. 100 .1. As shown in Fig. Test case 1: vertical land displacement vs. although they are less pronounced than before (Fig. 16. the top is traction-free and drained. 080 elements and nf ¼ 143. ne ¼ 70. silty and clayey layers down to 50 m depth is simulated.3.05 0 25 50 75 r [m] Fig. 17. Realistic applications The 3-D mixed FE model has been experimented with in two realistic applications addressing the consolidation of a shallow formation in the geological basin underlying the Venice lagoon.516. A cylindrical stratified porous volume made of a sequence of alternating sandy. The hydro-geological properties are summarized in Table 3 and are representative of a shallow sedimentary sequence in the upper Adriatic basin [7.01 -0. Test case 1: surface load A uniform surface load distributed over a circular area centered on the domain top with a 10-m radius is applied.

Test case 2: vertical land displacement vs. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 0. time on a horizontal plane located in the middle of the upper clay layer.05 -0.00 day 1 day 2 day 3 day 10 day 20 Δ z [m] -0.20 0 50 100 150 200 250 r [m] Fig. Fig. . Ferronato et al. Test case 2: pore pressure variation vs.4827 M.10 -0. time. 18. 19.15 -0.

A linear piecewise polynomial and the lowest order Raviart–Thomas mixed space are selected to approximate the medium displacement and the fluid flow rate. 15. the pore pressure is expected to initially rise at the load application as a consequence of the almost undrained deformation of the clay. i. The load is assumed to increase linearly from 0 to 8 kN/m2 within 3 days and then to remain constant.e. 18 provides the related land settlement vs.2. time in a radial cross-section. The pore pressure in the pumped formation achieves a maximum drawdown of 0. After 20 days the overpressure has almost completely dissipated and the displacement due to the primary consolidation approaches the steady state. The overpressure rise and dissipation in time as simulated by the mixed FE coupled model are shown in Fig. q0 ARBITRARILY SET .e. so reproducing it numerically may be a difficult task. The numerical model is verified against the well-known Terzaghi’s (1-D) and Mandel’s (2-D) analytical solutions and then compared to standard FEs. time along a radial cross-section. while Fig.3. more than 100 times smaller than the largest drawdown). then quickly dissipates as the consolidation proceeds. 16 shows the vertical land settlement vs. thus improving the stability and avoiding the convergence issues that may arise in a split approach.15 MPa 20 days after the beginning of pumping. in the middle of the upper clay layer. which represents the main source of instability in the numerical pore pressure solution. d0 ¼ 0. especially when pumping occurs at a shallow depth. A constant withdrawal rate of 8  103 m3/s is prescribed from the shallowest sandy layer (Fig. 19 provides the numerical pore pressure solution as obtained on a 3-m deep horizontal plane. 17 shows the drawdown distribution. no oscillations in the numerical solution are observed. 3. Ferronato et al.  the CP-SQMR algorithm appears to be a robust and efficient tool for the fully coupled solution even though the system conditioning gets worse as the element spacing decreases and the time integration step increases. Despite the small overpressure. i. Conclusions A fully coupled 3D mixed FE model for the simulation of Biot consolidation has been developed with the aim at alleviating the oscillations of the pore pressure solution along the interface between materials with different permeabilities at the initial stage of the process. Because of the small overpressure involved. This is physically related to the zero volume change rate prescribed at the initial time for the porous medium. the mobile barriers planned to protect Venice from the high tides. CP-SQMR algorithm ðpÞ ðuÞ ðqÞ #0 ¼ 0. 14) through a vertical well located at the centre of the simulated cylindrical porous volume. As the pore water flows out of the top draining surface the soil consolidates and the ground surface subsides. the Noordbergum effect turns out to be quite difficult to simulate numerically in a stable way. with no pressure oscillations at the interface between hydrologically heterogeneous media although a coarse discretization and an equally accurate approximation for the displacement are used. Note the pressure rise simulated in the deepest clay layer as well. The overpressure gradually dissipates in time with a rate depending on the sediment thickness and permeability. To reveal the Noordbergum effect Fig.e. u0 . The numerical solution appears to be stable with no oscillations and a good degree of symmetry. the mixed FE model appears to be numerically more stable. Fig. the induced overpressure is generally pretty small. The following results are worth summarizing:  the mixed FE formulation is element-wise mass conservative and preserves the practical advantage of using low-order interpolation elements for the medium displacement as well. the mixed FE model is able to simulate successfully complex coupled processes such as the overpressure within low permeable layers due to a sudden load and the Noordbergum effect.  the solution algorithm addresses the problem in a fully coupled way. Fig. Appendix A.4828 M. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 lagoon during the MOSE construction.  as compared to standard FEs. d0 ¼ 0 CHOOSE p0 . i. The authors wish to thank two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments and suggestions. As the first layer consists of low permeable sediments. The numerical solution is obtained with an algorithm that takes advantage of the block structure of the algebraic linearized system.  in realistic large-size settings. The phenomenon is called Noordbergum effect by the name of the village in The Netherlands where it was first observed. Acknowledgments This study has been supported by the Italian MIUR Project (PRIN) ‘‘Advanced numerical methods and models for environmental fluid-dynamics and geomechanics”. 4. As theoretically expected. Test case 2: the Noordbergum effect One of the most known physical processes accounted for by coupling between fluid flow and soil stress is the pressure rise occurring in a low permeable layer confining a pumped formation [39]. respectively. Moreover. the pore pressure increases at the initial stage of pumping with a very small value (about 1 kPa. d0 ¼ 0.

T w0 þ r0 w0 þ r0 w0 0 DO k ¼ 1. Ferronato et al. / Journal of Computational Physics 229 (2010) 4813–4830 r0 ¼ f ðpÞ ðpÞ ðuÞ r0 ðqÞ r0 ðpÞ t0 ¼f ðuÞ  Q p0 þ Ku0 ¼f ðqÞ  cðBp0  Aq0 Þ  Pp0  Q T u0  cBT q0 ðpÞ ¼ P1 r0 ðpÞ ðuÞ ¼ L1 S1 Q t0  r0 ðqÞ ðpÞ ðqÞ t0 ¼ L1 S2 cBt0  r0 qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi ðuÞ 2 ðqÞ 2 2 s0 ¼ ktðpÞ 0 k2 þ kt0 k2 þ kt0 k2 ðuÞ t0 ðqÞ ðqÞ w0 ¼ LT S2 t0 ðuÞ w0 ðpÞ w0 ðuÞ ¼ LT S1 t0 ðpÞ ðuÞ ðqÞ ¼ t0  P 1 Q T w0 þ cBT w0 ðpÞ ðuÞ.T ðpÞ ðuÞ. qk1 ELSE ak ¼ qk1 =rk ðpÞ ðpÞ ðpÞ rk ¼ rk1  ak sk ðuÞ ðuÞ ðuÞ rk ¼ rk1  ak sk ðqÞ ðqÞ ðqÞ rk ¼ rk1  ak sk ðpÞ ðpÞ tk ¼ P1 rk ðuÞ ðpÞ ðuÞ tk ¼ L1 S1 Q tk  rk qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi. 2.T ðuÞ k ¼ wk1 sk þ wk1 sk ðpÞ sk ðuÞ sk ðqÞ sk cBT wðqÞ k1 c ðqÞ. uk1 . .T ðuÞ ðqÞ.T ðqÞ q0 ¼ rðpÞ. r IF UNTIL CONVERGENCE ðpÞ ðuÞ ¼ Pwk1 þ Q T wk1 þ ðpÞ ðuÞ ¼ Q wk1  Kwk1 ðpÞ ðqÞ ¼ ðBwk1  Awk1 Þ ðpÞ.M. . .T ðqÞ þ wk1 sk ½ðrk ¼ 0Þorðqk1 ¼ 0Þ THEN STOP WITH SOLUTION pk1 .

T v ðpÞ þ rk v k þ rk v k k bk ¼ qk =qk1 ðpÞ ðpÞ ðuÞ wk ðqÞ wk ðuÞ k ðqÞ k ðpÞ wk ¼ v k þ bk wk1 ¼v ¼v ðuÞ þ bk wk1 ðqÞ þ bk wk1 END IF END DO References [1] K. Biot. ðqÞ ðpÞ ðqÞ ðpÞ ðuÞ ðqÞ #k ¼ ktk k22 þ ktk k22 þ ktk k22 sk1 tk ¼ L1 S2 cBtk  rk qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi wk ¼ 1= 1 þ #2k sk ¼ sk1 #k wk ðpÞ ðpÞ ðuÞ ðuÞ ðpÞ dk ¼ w2k #2k1 dk1 þ w2k ak wk1 ðuÞ dk ¼ w2k #2k1 dk1 þ w2k ak wk1 ðqÞ dk ðqÞ ¼ w2k #2k1 dk1 þ ðpÞ pk ¼ pk1 þ dk ðuÞ uk ¼ uk1 þ dk ðqÞ qk ¼ qk1 þ dk ðqÞ T ðqÞ k ¼ LS2 tk ðuÞ ðuÞ ¼ LT S1 tk k ðpÞ ðpÞ 1 QT k ¼ tk  P w2k v v v ðqÞ k wk1 a T ðqÞ v ðuÞ k þ cB v k ðuÞ.T ðqÞ qk ¼ rkðpÞ. 12 (1941) 155–164. 4829 . Vienna.A. Terzaghi. General theory of three-dimensional consolidation. F. 1925. Phys. J.T ðuÞ ðqÞ. Erdbaumechanik auf Bodenphysikalischer Grundlage. Duticke. [2] M. Appl.

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