Numerical and experimental investigation of DNAPL removal mechanisms in a layered porous medium by means of soil vapor extraction

Hongkyu Yoon, Mart Oostrom, Thomas W. Wietsma, Charles J. Werth, Albert J. Valocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this work is to identify the mechanisms that govern the removal of carbon tetrachloride (CT) during soil vapor extraction (SVE) by comparing numerical and analytical model simulations with a detailed data set from a well-defined intermediate-scale flow cell experiment. The flow cell was packed with a fine-grained sand layer embedded in a coarse-grained sand matrix. A total of 499 mL CT was injected at the top of the flow cell and allowed to redistribute in the variably saturated system. A dual-energy gamma radiation system was used to determine the initial NAPL saturation profile in the fine-grained sand layer. Gas concentrations at the outlet of the flow cell and 15 sampling ports inside the flow cell were measured during subsequent CT removal using SVE. Results show that CT mass was removed quickly in coarse-grained sand, followed by a slow removal from the fine-grained sand layer. Consequently, effluent gas concentrations decreased quickly at first, and then started to decrease gradually, resulting in long-term tailing. The long-term tailing was mainly due to diffusion from the fine-grained sand layer to the coarse-grained sand zone. An analytical solution for a one-dimensional advection and a first-order mass transfer model matched the tailing well with two fitting parameters. Given detailed knowledge of the permeability field and initial CT distribution, we were also able to predict the effluent concentration tailing and gas concentration profiles at sampling ports using a numerical simulator assuming equilibrium CT evaporation. The numerical model predictions were accurate within the uncertainty of independently measured or literature derived parameters. This study demonstrates that proper numerical modeling of CT removal through SVE can be achieved using equilibrium evaporation of NAPL if detailed fine-scale knowledge of the CT distribution and physical heterogeneity is incorporated into the model. However, CT removal could also be fit by a first-order mass transfer analytical model, potentially leading to an erroneous conclusion that the long-term tailing in the experiment was kinetically controlled due to rate-limited NAPL evaporation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Oct 13 2009


  • Flow cell
  • Multiphase
  • Soil Vapor Extraction (SVE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology


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