On Modeling Three-Phase Flow in Discretely Fractured Porous Rock
Walton, Kenneth Mark
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Numerical modeling of fluid flow and dissolved species transport in the subsurface is a challenging task, given variability and measurement uncertainty in the physical properties of the rock, the complexities of multi-fluid interaction, and limited computational resources. Nonetheless, this thesis seeks to expand our modeling capabilities in the context of contaminant hydrogeology. We describe the numerical simulator CompFlow Bio and use it to model invasion of a nonaqueous phase liquid (NAPL) contaminant through the vadose zone and below the water table in a fractured porous rock. CompFlow Bio is a three-phase, multicomponent, deterministic numerical model for fluid flow and dissolved species transport; it includes capillary pressure and equilibrium partitioning relationships. We have augmented the model to include randomly generated, axis-aligned, discrete fracture networks (DFNs). The DFN is coupled with the porous medium (PM) to form a single continuum. The domain is discretized using a finite-volume scheme in an unstructured mesh of rectilinear control volumes (CVs). Herein we present the governing equations, unstructured mesh creation scheme, algebraic development of fracture intersection CV elimination, and coupling of PM CVs over a fracture plane to permit asperity contact bridged flow. We include: small scale two-phase water-air and NAPL-water simulations to validate the practice of intersection CV elimination; small scale simulations with water-air, NAPL-water, and NAPL-water-air systems in a grid refinement exercise and to demonstrate the effect of asperity contact bridged flow; intermediate scale 3D simulations of NAPL invading the saturated zone, based on the Smithville, Ontario, site; intermediate scale 2D and 3D simulations of NAPL invading the vadose zone and saturated zone with transient recharge, based on the Santa Susana Field Laboratory site, California. Our findings indicate that: the formulation provides a practical and satisfactory way of modeling three-phase flow in discretely fractured porous rock; numerical error caused by spatial discretization manifests itself as several biases in physical flow processes; that asperity contact is important in establishing target water saturation conditions in the vadose zone; and simulation results are sensitive to relative permeability-saturation-capillary pressure relationships. We suggest a number of enhancements to CompFlow Bio to overcome certain computational limitations.