Effect of subsurface heterogeneity on free-product recovery from unconfined aquifers

J. J. Kaluarachchi, Utah State University


Free-product record system designs for light-hydrocarbon-contaminated sites were investigated to evaluate the effects of subsurface heterogeneity using a vertically integrated three-phase flow model. The input stochastic variable of the areal flow analysis was the log-intrinsic permeability and it was generated using the Turning Band method. The results of a series of hypothetical field-scale simulations showed that subsurface heterogeneity has a substantial effect on free-product recovery predictions. As the heterogeneity increased, the recoverable oil volume decreased and the residual trapped oil volume increased. As the subsurface anisotropy increased, these effects together with free- and total-oil contaminated areas were further enhanced. The use of multiple-stage water pumping was found to be insignificant compared to steady uniform pumping due to reduced recovery efficiency and increased residual oil volume. This observation was opposite to that produced under homogeneous scenarios. The effect of subsurface heterogeneity was enhanced at relatively low water pumping rates. The difference in results produced by homogeneous and heterogeneous simulations was substantial, indicating greater attention should be paid in modeling free-product recovery systems with appropriate subsurface heterogeneity.