Remediation of contaminated aquifers (hydrocarbons) by means of alcohol flooding
A common aspect of innovative remediation techniques is that they tend to reduce the interfacial tension between the aqueous and non-aqueous phase liquids, resulting in mobilization of the organic contaminant. This complicates the remediation of aquifers, contaminated with Dense Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (DNAPLs), as they are likely to migrate downwards, deeper into the aquifer and into finer layers. A possible solution is the use of swelling alcohols, which tend to reduce the density difference between the aqueous phase and the DNAPL. To avoid premature mobilization upon the initial contact between the DNAPL and the alcohol, several researchers have proposed the use of vertical upward flow of the alcohol. In this paper, we present an equation, which describes the upward mobilization of both continuous and discontinuous DNAPLs and so the important parameters governing the upward controlled mobilization of the DNAPL. The need and required magnitude of this specific discharge was investigated by conducting four column experiments in which the initial density of the DNAPL and the permeability was varied. It was shown that the required flow velocities increase with the permeability of the porous medium and the initial density difference between the aqueous phase and the DNAPL. Whenever the specific discharge falls below the critical value, the DNAPL moves downward. A second set of column experiments looked at the impact of permeability of porous medium on the solubilization and mobilization of DNAPL during alcohol flooding. Columns, packed with coarse or fine sand, containing a residual trichloroethylene (TCE) or perchloroethylene (PCE) saturation were flushed with the alcohol mixture at a fixed specific discharge rate. The induced pressure gradients in the aqueous phase, which were higher in the fine sand, resulted for this porous medium in extensive mobilization of the DNAPL against the direction of the buoyancy force. The density of the first NAPL coming out of the top of the fine sand was close to that of the pure DNAPL. In the coarser sand, the pressure gradients were sufficient to prevent downward migration of the DNAPL, but upward mobilization was minimal. The predominant removal mechanism in this case was the much slower solubilization.
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