An accurate and fast simulation of large-scale gas/liquid contact apparatusses, such as bubble columns, is essential for the optimization and further development of many (bio)chemical and metallurgical processes. Since it is not feasible to simulate an entire industrial-scale bubble column in full detail from first principles (direct numerical simulations), higher-level models rely on algebraic closure relations to account for the most important physical phenomena prevailing at the smallest length and time scales, while keeping computational demands low. The most important closure for describing rising bubbles in a liquid is the closure for the drag force, since it dominates the terminal rise velocity of the bubbles. Due to the very high gas loadings used in many industrial processes, bubble–bubble (or ‘swarm’) interactions need to be accounted for in the drag closure. An advanced front-tracking model was employed, which can simulate bubble swarms up to 50% gas hold-up without the problem of (numerical) coalescence. The influence of the gas hold-up for mono-disperse bubble swarms with different bubble diameters (i.e. Eötvös numbers) was quantified in a single drag correlation valid for the intermediate to high Reynolds numbers regime . Also the physical properties of the liquid phase were varied, but the simulation results revealed that the drag force coefficient was independent of the Morton number. The newly developed correlation has been implemented in a larger-scale model, and the effect of the new drag closure on the hydrodynamics in a bubble column is investigated in a separate paper (Lau et al., 2011 Lau, Y., Roghair, I., Deen, N.G., Van Sint Annaland, M., Kuipers, J.A.M. Numerical investigation of the drag closure for bubbles in bubble swarms. Chemical Engineering Science, this issue, doi:10.1016/j.ces.2011.01.053. Lau et al., this issue).