Earth Sciences Division (ESD) Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL)

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Modeling Transport: Fracture-Matrix

Source:  Dan Hawkes

Case 1: Transport results for matrix flow parallel to the fracture and solute release in the fracture. (a) Concentration contours at 200 days; (b) cumulative-mass arrivals at 100 m; (c) mass-arrival rates at 100 m.

Solute transport in groundwater flow through fractured rock is a key issue for environmental groundwater contamination problems. Fractures, a common feature of consolidated rock systems, typically present much higher permeability than unfractured rock matrix, such that flow through fractures often dominates overall flow behavior. Matrix, on the other hand, typically dominates the overall pore volume of a fractured rock.

Using an analytical approach to study solute transport through a fracture in a permeable rock matrix, ESD hydrologists Jim Houseworth, Daisuke Asahina, and Jens Birkholzer generated a closed-form analytical model that accounts for transverse and longitudinal advective transport in the fracture and matrix, and transverse diffusion in the matrix. Their solution also accounts for both diffusive and advective solute exchange between the fracture and matrix and a general solute source position in either the fracture or matrix. The novel features are the incorporation of advective transport in the matrix and a general source position into a closed-form solution for the solute-transport problem. 

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Citation: Houseworth, J.E., D. Asahina, and J.T. Birkholzer (2013), An analytical model for solute transport through a water-saturated single fracture and permeable rock matrix. Water Resources Research, 49, 1-22; DOI:10.1002/wrcr.20497.

Funding: UFDC, Office of Nuclear Energy