The ability of a multiphase flow model to capture the migration behavior of chlorinated solvents under conditions of surfactant-facilitated interfacial tension (IFT) reduction is assessed through comparison of model predictions with observations from controlled laboratory experiments. Tetrachloroethene (PCE) was released in two-dimensional saturated systems, packed with sandy media that incorporated rectangular lenses of capillary contrast. Spatially uniform interfacial tension conditions were created in the tanks by pre-flushing the porous medium with either Milli Q water or an aqueous surfactant solution. Experimental observations showed that surfactant-facilitated IFT reductions substantially lowered capillary resistance to the vertical downward migration of PCE and enabled PCE to enter finer grained, less permeable lenses that were not penetrated in the absence of surfactant. An immiscible flow model was used to simulate the conditions of the laboratory experiments. Under higher IFT conditions (47.5 and 5 dyn/cm), the model could successfully predict the general migration behavior of the organic liquid. Model predictions, however, exhibited poorer agreement with observed migration pathways under low IFT conditions (0.5 dyn/cm). In all cases, the predicted PCE distributions were influenced by selection of the parametric model for capillary retention and relative permeability. Simulated migration rates were more consistent with observed behavior when the Brooks-Corey/Burdine model was employed. For low interfacial tensions, improved predictions of migration pathways were obtained through grid refinement and incorporation of small-scale packing variability. Simulations highlight the substantial sensitivity of model predictions to the capillary pressure-scaling factor, grid resolution, and small-scale porosity variations at interfaces of permeability contrast under reduced IFT conditions.
Journal of Contaminant Hydrology 08/2003; 64(3-4):227-52. DOI:10.1016/S0169-7722(02)00205-X · 2.70 Impact Factor