Investigation of Pore Scale Processes That Affect Soil Vapor Extraction

Albert J. Valocchi, Charles J. Werth, Andrew Webb

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingTechnical report


Dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) contamination in the vadose zone is a significant problem at Department of Energy sites. Soil vapor extraction (SVE) is commonly used to remediate DNAPLs from the vadose zone. In most cases, a period of high recovery has been followed by a sustained period of low recovery. This behavior has been attributed to multiple processes including slow interphase mass transfer, retarded vapor phase transport, and diffusion from unswept zones of low permeability. Prior attempts to uncouple and quantify these processes have relied on column experiments, where the effluent concentration was monitored under different conditions in an effort to quantify the contributions from a single process. In real porous media these processes occur simultaneously and are inter-related. Further, the contribution from each of these processes varies at the pore scale and with time. This research aims to determine the pore-scale processes that limit the removal of DNAPL components in heterogeneous porous media during SVE. The specific objectives are to: (1) determine the effect of unswept zones on DNAPL removal during SVE, (2) determine the effect of retarded vapor phase transport on DNAPL removal during SVE, and (3) determine the effect of interphase mass transfer on DNAPL removal during SVE, all as a function of changing moisture and DNAPL content. To fulfill these objectives we propose to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe and quantify the location and size of individual pores containing DNAPL, water, and vapor in flow through columns filled with model and natural sediments. Imaging results will be used in conjunction with modeling techniques to develop spatially and temporally dependent constitutive relations that describe the transient distribution of phases inside a column experiment. This work will lead to improved models that will allow decision makers to better assess the risk associated with vadose zone contamination and the effectiveness of SVE at hazardous waste sites.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Place of PublicationOak Ridge
PublisherU.S. Department of Energy
StatePublished - 2003


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