We assess the impact of an anisotropic space and time grid adaptation technique on our ability to solve numerically solute transport in heterogeneous porous media. Heterogeneity is characterized in terms of the spatial distribution of hydraulic conductivity, whose natural logarithm, Y, is treated as a second-order stationary random process. We consider nonreactive transport of dissolved chemicals to be governed by an Advection Dispersion Equation at the continuum scale. The flow field, which provides the advective component of transport, is obtained through the numerical solution of Darcy's law. A suitable recovery-based error estimator is analyzed to guide the adaptive discretization. We investigate two diverse strategies guiding the (space-time) anisotropic mesh adaptation. These are respectively grounded on the definition of the guiding error estimator through the spatial gradients of: (i) the concentration field only; (ii) both concentration and velocity components. We test the approach for two-dimensional computational scenarios with moderate and high levels of heterogeneity, the latter being expressed in terms of the variance of Y. As quantities of interest, we key our analysis towards the time evolution of section-averaged and point-wise solute breakthrough curves, second centered spatial moment of concentration, and scalar dissipation rate. As a reference against which we test our results, we consider corresponding solutions associated with uniform space-time grids whose level of refinement is established through a detailed convergence study. We find a satisfactory comparison between results for the adaptive methodologies and such reference solutions, our adaptive technique being associated with a markedly reduced computational cost. Comparison of the two adaptive strategies tested suggests that: (i) defining the error estimator relying solely on concentration fields yields some advantages in grasping the key features of solute transport taking place within low velocity regions, where diffusion-dispersion mechanisms are dominant; and (ii) embedding the velocity field in the error estimator guiding strategy yields an improved characterization of the forward fringe of solute fronts which propagate through high velocity regions.
Journal of Contaminant Hydrology – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2018
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