Analysis of a Vertical Dipole Tracer Test in Highly Fractured Rock

William E. Sanford, Peter G. Cook, John C. Dighton

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14 Citations (Scopus)


The results of a vertical dipole tracer experiment performed in highly fractured rocks of the Clare Valley, South Australia, are presented. The injection and withdrawal piezometers were both screened over 3 m and were separated by 6 m (midpoint to midpoint). Due to the long screen length, several fracture sets were intersected, some of which do not connect the two piezometers. Dissolved helium and bromide were injected into the dipole flow field for 75 minutes, followed by an additional 510 minutes of flushing. The breakthrough of helium was retarded relative to bromide, as was expected due to the greater aqueous diffusion coefficient of helium. Also, only ∼25% of the total mass injected of both tracers was recovered. Modeling of the tracer transport was accomplished using an analytical one-dimensional flow and transport model for flow through a fracture with diffusion into the matrix. The assumptions made include: streamlines connecting the injection and withdrawal point can be modeled as a dipole of equal strength, flow along each streamline is one dimensional, and there is a constant Peclet number for each streamline. In contrast to many other field tracer studies performed in fractured rock, the actual travel length between piezometers was not known. Modeling was accomplished by fitting the characteristics of the tracer breakthrough curves (BTCs), such as arrival times of the peak concentration and the center of mass. The important steps were to determine the fracture aperture (240 μm) based on the parameters that influence the rate of matrix diffusion (this controls the arrival time of the peak concentration); estimating the travel distance (11 m) by fitting the time of arrival of the centers of mass of the tracers; and estimating fracture dispersivity (0.5 m) by fitting the times that the inflection points occurred on the front and back limbs of the BTCs. This method works even though there was dilution in the withdrawal well, the amount of which can be estimated by determining the value that the modeled concentrations need to be reduced to fit the data (∼50%). The use of two tracers with different diffusion coefficients was not necessary, but it provides important checks in the modeling process because the apparent retardation between the two tracers is evidence of matrix diffusion and the BTCs of both tracers need to be accurately modeled by the best fit parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)535-542
Number of pages8
JournalGround water
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2002
Externally publishedYes


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