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A simple method of transport parameter estimation for slug injecting tracer tests in porous media

Liang, Xiuyu, Zhan, Hongbin, Liu, Jin, Dong, Guiming, Zhang, You-Kuan
The Science of the total environment 2018 v.644 pp. 1536-1546
equations, heat, liquids, porous media, sand, slugs, solutes, tracer techniques
Slug (instantaneous injection) tracer tests can be used effectively to determinate solute transport parameters in porous media such as pore velocities and dispersivities, which are usually estimated with curve-fitting methods. This study proposes a simple method to estimate conservative and reactive solute transport parameters in one-, two- and three- dimensional domains with uniform flow fields based on peak times of slug tracer tests. This method requires fewer measured data than traditional curve-fitting methods. The accuracy of the method depends on the time-interval of measurement that is the time interval used in collecting observed concentrations of solutes. The error of the pore velocity estimate is very small (less than 3%) even for a relatively large time-interval of measurement. The error of the dispersivity estimate increases with the time-interval (Δt) of measurement significantly. For 1-D case, the relative error increases from 0.29% at ∆t of 0.1 min to 17.12% at ∆t of 6 min. Such an error can be reduced by refining the time-interval of measurement near the actual peak time of breakthrough curves. The error of the dispersivity estimate decreases when the retardation factor increases. The first-order decay rate constant in the liquid hardly influences the accuracies of both pore velocity and dispersivity estimates. The proposed method is applied on laboratory sand column tests. The results indicate that the estimated pore velocities and dispersivities are almost the same to that of the curves-fitting method. This method can be employed easily by scientists and practitioners for parameter estimations in laboratory column experiments if advection-dispersion equation is applicable. This method can also be used for parameter estimation of heat transport in a laboratory column experiment if a slug heat source is injected into a porous media with the presence of a uniform flow field. Limitations of the study have also been addressed.