October 2, 2006
Journal Article

Behavior of a Viscous LNAPL under Variable Water Table Conditions


An intermediate-scale experiment in a 1.02-m-long, 0.75-m-high, and 0.05-m-wide flow cell was conducted to investigate the behavior of a viscous LNAPL under variable water table conditions. Two viscous LNAPL volumes (0.4 L) were released, one week apart, from a small source zone on top of the flow cell into a partly saturated, homogenously packed porous medium. Following a redistribution period of 30 days after the second release, the water table was increased 0.5 m in 50 minutes. After the water table rise, viscous LNAPL behavior was monitored for an additional 45 days. Fluid saturation scans were obtained periodically with a fully automated dual-energy gamma radiation system. Results show that both spills follow similar paths downwards. Within two hours after the first LNAPL arrival, the capillary fringe was reduced across the cell by approximately 0.04 m (22%). This reduction is directly related to the decrease in the air-water surface tension from 0.072 to 0.057 N/m. LNAPL drainage from the unsaturated zone was relatively slow and a considerable residual LNAPL saturation was observed after 30 days of drainage. Most of the mobile LNAPL moved into the capillary fringe during this period. After a rapid 0.5 m water table rise, the LNAPL moved up in a delayed fashion. The LNAPL used the same path upwards as it used coming down during the infiltration phase. After 45 days, the LNAPL has moved up only approximately 0.2 m. Since the LNAPL has only moved up a limited amount, nonwetting fluid entrapment was limited. The experiment was simulated using the STOMP multifluid flow simulator, which includes entrapped and residual LNAPL saturation formation. A comparison indicates that the simulator is able to predict the observed phenomena well, including residual saturation formation in the vadose zone, and limited upward LNAPL movement after the water table rise. The results of this experiment show that viscous mobile LNAPL, subject to variable water table conditions, does not necessarily float on the water table and may not appear in an observation well.

Revised: October 16, 2006 | Published: October 2, 2006


Oostrom M., C. Hofstee, and T.W. Wietsma. 2006. Behavior of a Viscous LNAPL under Variable Water Table Conditions. Soil & Sediment Contamination 15, no. 6:543 - 564. PNNL-SA-46807. doi:10.1080/15320380600958976