Incorporating Non-Linear Sorption into High Fidelity Subsurface Reactive Transport Models

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Loren Shawn Matott1, Alan J Rabideau2 and Richelle M Allen-King1, (1)University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, United States, (2)SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, United States
A variety of studies, including multiple NRC (National Research Council) reports, have stressed the need for simulation models that can provide realistic predictions of contaminant behavior during the groundwater remediation process, most recently highlighting the specific technical challenges of “back diffusion and desorption in plume models”. For a typically-sized remediation site, a minimum of about 70 million grid cells are required to achieve desired cm-level thickness among low-permeability lenses responsible for driving the back-diffusion phenomena. Such discretization is nearly three orders of magnitude more than is typically seen in modeling practice using public domain codes like RT3D (Reactive Transport in Three Dimensions). Consequently, various extensions have been made to the RT3D code to support efficient modeling of recently proposed dual-mode non-linear sorption processes (e.g. Polanyi with linear partitioning) at high-fidelity scales of grid resolution. These extensions have facilitated development of exploratory models in which contaminants are introduced into an aquifer via an extended multi-decade “release period” and allowed to migrate under natural conditions for centuries. These realistic simulations of contaminant loading and migration provide high fidelity representation of the underlying diffusion and sorption processes that control remediation. Coupling such models with decision support processes is expected to facilitate improved long-term management of complex remediation sites that have proven intractable to conventional remediation strategies.