According to this slide, the following two formulations of the mincost flow problem are equivalent:

Given directed graph G = (V, E)

  • Let u denote capacities
  • Let c denote edge costs.
  • A flow of f(v,w) units on edge (v,w) contributes cost c(v,w)f(v,w) to the objective function.


  1. Send x units of flow from s to t as cheaply as possible.

  2. General version with supplies and demands

    • No source or sink.
    • Each node has a value b(v).
    • positive b(v) is a supply
    • negative b(v) is a demand.
    • Find flow which satisfies supplies and demands and has minimum total cost.

I can see that 2. is a special case of 3. in which only two nodes (s and t) and have non-zero demand. But I cannot figure out how to transform the more general problem 3. into problem 2.

Can anyone help explain how to transform 3. to 2. ?

That is, how to e.g. add edges and/or change capacity/cost, to solve problem 3. with a solver of problem 2.


1 Answer 1


I would say that 3. is a special case of 2. instead but it is a point of view.

On 3., you can create a new node "source" which has edges to every supply nodes (b(v) > 0). These edges have cost 0 and capacity b(v).

Then you create a new node "sink" which has edges from every demand node. These edges have cost 0 and capacity -b(v).

All this replaces the b(v) values which are not needed anymore.


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