Stepwise pumping approach to improve free phase light hydrocarbon recovery from unconfined aquifers

G. S. Cooper
R. C. Peralta
J. J. Kaluarachchi, Utah State University


A stepwise, time-varying pumping approach is developed to improve free phase oil recovery of light non-aqueous phase liquids (LNAPL) from a homogeneous, unconfined aquifer. Stepwise pumping is used to contain the floating oil plume and obtain efficient free oil recovery. The graphical plots. The approach uses ARMOS©, an areal two-dimensional multiphase flow, finite-element simulation model. Systematic simulations of free oil area changes to pumping rates are analyzed. Pumping rates are determined that achieve LNAPL plume containment at different times (i.e. 90, 180 and 360 days) for a planning period of 360 days. These pumping rates are used in reverse order as a stepwise (monotonically increasing) pumping strategy. This stepwise pumping strategy is analyzed further by performing additional simulations at different pumping rates for the last pumping period. The final stepwise pumping strategy is varied by factors of −25% and +30% to evaluate sensitivity in the free oil recovery process. Stepwise pumping is compared to steady pumping rates to determine the best free oil recovery strategy. Stepwise pumping is shown to improve oil recovery by increasing recoveredoil volume (11%) and decreasing residual oil (15%) when compared with traditional steady pumping strategies. The best stepwise pumping strategy recovers more free oil by reducing the amount of residual oil left in the system due to pumping drawdown. This stepwise pumping pproach can be used to enhance free oil recovery and provide for cost-effective design and management of LNAPL cleanup.