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The influence of reduced dimensionality (two-dimensional (2-D) versus 3-D) on predictions of dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) infiltration and entrapment in statistically homogeneous, nonuniform permeability fields was investigated using the University of Texas Chemical Compositional Simulator (UTCHEM), a 3-D numerical multiphase simulator. Hysteretic capillary pressure–saturation and relative permeability relationships implemented in UTCHEM were benchmarked against those of another lab-tested simulator, the Michigan-Vertical and Lateral Organic Redistribution (M-VALOR). Simulation of a tetrachloroethene spill in 16 field-scale aquifer realizations generated DNAPL saturation distributions with approximately equivalent distribution metrics in two and three dimensions, with 2-D simulations generally resulting in slightly higher maximum saturations and increased vertical spreading. Variability in 2-D and 3-D distribution metrics across the set of realizations was shown to be correlated at a significance level of 95–99%. Neither spill volume nor release rate appeared to affect these conclusions. Variability in the permeability field did affect spreading metrics by increasing the horizontal spreading in 3-D more than in 2-D in more heterogeneous media simulations. The assumption of isotropic horizontal spatial statistics resulted, on average, in symmetric 3-D saturation distribution metrics in the horizontal directions. The practical implication of this study is that for statistically homogeneous, nonuniform aquifers, 2-D simulations of saturation distributions are good approximations to those obtained in 3-D. However, additional work will be needed to explore the influence of dimensionality on simulated DNAPL dissolution.


Geology | Hydrology


NOTICE IN COMPLIANCE WITH PUBLISHER POLICY: An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright © 2005 American Geophysical Union. Available at: