Effects of reservoir heterogeneity on scaling of effective mass transfer coefficient for solute transport

Juliana Y. Leung, Sanjay Srinivasan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Modeling transport process at large scale requires proper scale-up of subsurface heterogeneity and an understanding of its interaction with the underlying transport mechanisms. A technique based on volume averaging is applied to quantitatively assess the scaling characteristics of effective mass transfer coefficient in heterogeneous reservoir models. The effective mass transfer coefficient represents the combined contribution from diffusion and dispersion to the transport of non-reactive solute particles within a fluid phase. Although treatment of transport problems with the volume averaging technique has been published in the past, application to geological systems exhibiting realistic spatial variability remains a challenge. Previously, the authors developed a new procedure where results from a fine-scale numerical flow simulation reflecting the full physics of the transport process albeit over a sub-volume of the reservoir are integrated with the volume averaging technique to provide effective description of transport properties. The procedure is extended such that spatial averaging is performed at the local-heterogeneity scale. In this paper, the transport of a passive (non-reactive) solute is simulated on multiple reservoir models exhibiting different patterns of heterogeneities, and the scaling behavior of effective mass transfer coefficient (Keff) is examined and compared. One such set of models exhibit power-law (fractal) characteristics, and the variability of dispersion and Keff with scale is in good agreement with analytical expressions described in the literature. This work offers an insight into the impacts of heterogeneity on the scaling of effective transport parameters. A key finding is that spatial heterogeneity models with similar univariate and bivariate statistics may exhibit different scaling characteristics because of the influence of higher order statistics. More mixing is observed in the channelized models with higher-order continuity. It reinforces the notion that the flow response is influenced by the higher-order statistical description of heterogeneity. An important implication is that when scaling-up transport response from lab-scale results to the field scale, it is necessary to account for the scale-up of heterogeneity. Since the characteristics of higher-order multivariate distributions and large-scale heterogeneity are typically not captured in small-scale experiments, a reservoir modeling framework that captures the uncertainty in heterogeneity description should be adopted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-193
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Volume192
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology

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