Groundwater systems are increasingly used for seasonal aquifer thermal energy storage (SATES) for periodic heating and cooling of buildings. Its use is hampered in contaminated aquifers because of the potential environmental risks associated with the spreading of contaminated groundwater, but positive side effects, such as enhanced contaminant remediation, might also occur. A first reactive transport study is presented to assess the effect of SATES on the fate of chlorinated solvents by means of scenario modeling, with emphasis on the effects of transient SATES pumping and applicable kinetic degradation regime. Temperature effects on physical, chemical, and biological reactions were excluded as calculations and initial simulations showed that the small temperature range commonly involved (ΔT < 15 C) only caused minor effects. The results show that a significant decrease of the contaminant mass and (eventually) plume volume occurs when degradation is described as sediment-limited with a constant rate in space and time, provided that dense non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) is absent. However, in the presence of DNAPL dissolution, particularly when the dissolved contaminant reaches SATES wells, a considerably larger contaminant plume is created, depending on the balance between DNAPL dissolution and mass removal by degradation. Under conditions where degradation is contaminant-limited and degradation rates depend on contaminant concentrations in the aquifer, a SATES system does not result in enhanced remediation of a contaminant plume. Although field data are lacking and existing regulatory constraints do not yet permit the application of SATES in contaminated aquifers, reactive transport modeling provides a means of assessing the risks of SATES application in contaminated aquifers. The results from this study are considered to be a first step in identifying the subsurface conditions under which SATES can be applied in a safe or even beneficial manner.
- Reactive transport modeling