We present a combined experimental and numerical modeling study that addresses two principal questions: (i) is any particular Eulerian-based method used to solve the classical advection-dispersion equation (ADE) clearly superior (relative to the others), in terms of yielding solutions that reproduce BTCs of the kind that are typically sampled at the outlet of a laboratory cell? and (ii) in the presence of matches of comparable quality against such BTCs, do any of these methods render different (or similar) numerical BTCs at locations within the domain? To address these questions, we obtained measurements from carefully controlled laboratory experiments, and employ them as a reference against which numerical results are benchmarked and compared. The experiments measure solute transport breakthrough curves (BTCs) through a square domain containing various configurations of coarse, medium, and fine quartz sand. The approaches to solve the ADE involve Eulerian-Lagrangian and Eulerian (finite volume, finite elements, mixed and discontinuous finite elements) numerical methods. Model calibration is not examined; permeability and porosity of each sand were determined previously through separate, standard laboratory tests, while dispersivities are assigned values proportional to mean grain size. We find that the spatial discretization of the flow field is of critical importance, due to the non-uniformity of the domain. Although simulated BTCs at the system outlet are observed to be very similar for these various numerical methods, computed local (point-wise, inside the domain) BTCs can be very different. We find that none of the numerical methods is able to fully reproduce the measured BTCs. The impact of model parameter uncertainty on the calculated BTCs is characterized through a set of numerical Monte Carlo simulations; in cases where the impact is significant, assessment of simulation matches to the experimental data can be ambiguous.
Journal of Contaminant Hydrology – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2018
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