Numerical examination of the factors controlling DNAPL migration through a single fracture

David Reynolds, B.H. Kueper

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    35 Citations (Scopus)


    The migration of five dense nonaqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) through a single fracture in a clay aquitard was numerically simulated with the use of a compositional simulator. The effects of fracture aperture, fracture dip, matrix porosity, and matrix organic carbon content on the migration of chlorobenzene, 1,2-dichloroethylene, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, and 1,2-dibromoethane were examined. Boundary conditions were chosen such that DNAPL entry into the system was allowed to vary according to the stresses applied. The aperture is the most important factor of those studied controlling the migration rate of DNAPL through a single fracture embedded in a clay matrix. Loss of mass to the matrix through diffusion does not significantly retard the migration rate of the DNAPL, particularly in larger aperture fractures (e.g., 50 mum). With time, the ratio of diffusive loss to the matrix to DNAPL flux into the fracture approaches an asymptotic value lower than unity. The implication is that matrix diffusion cannot arrest the migration of DNAPL in a single fracture. The complex relationships between density, viscosity, and solubility that, to some extent, govern the migration of DNAPL through these systems prevent accurate predictions without the use of numerical models. The contamination potential of the migrating DNAPL is significantly increased through the transfer of mass to the matrix. The occurrence of opposite concentration gradients within the matrix can cause dissolved phase contamination to exist in the system for more than 1000 years after the DNAPL has been completely removed from the fracture.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)368-377
    JournalGround Water
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 2002


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