Estimating kinetic mass transfer by resting-period measurements in flow-interruption tracer tests

Rulan Gong, Chunhui Lu, Weimin Wu, J Carley, H Cheng, D Waston, C Criddle, Peter Kitanidis, S Brooks, P Jardine, Jian Luo

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    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Flow-interruption tracer test is an effective approach to identify kinetic mass transfer processes for solute transport in subsurface media. By switching well pumping and resting, one may alter the dominant transport mechanism and generate special concentration patterns for identifying kinetic mass transfer processes. In the present research, we conducted three-phase (i.e., pumping, resting, and pumping) field-scale flow-interruption tracer tests using a conservative tracer bromide in a multiple-well system installed at the US Department of Energy Site, Oak Ridge, TN. A novel modeling approach based on the resting-period measurements was developed to estimate the mass transfer parameters. This approach completely relied on the measured breakthrough curves without requiring detailed aquifer characterization and solving transport equations in nonuniform, transient flow fields. Additional measurements, including hydraulic heads and tracer concentrations in large pumping wells, were taken to justify the assumption that mass transfer processes dominated concentration change during resting periods. The developed approach can be conveniently applied to any linear mass transfer model. Both first-order and multirate mass transfer models were applied to analyze the breakthrough curves at various monitoring wells. The multirate mass transfer model was capable of jointly fitting breakthrough curve behavior, showing the effectiveness and flexibility for incorporating aquifer heterogeneity and scale effects in upscaling effective mass transfer models.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-45
    Number of pages9
    JournalJournal of Contaminant Hydrology
    Issue number1-4
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Sep 2010


    • Breakthrough curve
    • Flow-interruption tracer test
    • Mass transfer
    • Memory function
    • Multiple-well system


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