Articles | Volume 17, issue 7
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 2599–2611, 2013
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 17, 2599–2611, 2013

Research article 09 Jul 2013

Research article | 09 Jul 2013

Evidence of non-Darcy flow and non-Fickian transport in fractured media at laboratory scale

C. Cherubini1, C. I. Giasi2, and N. Pastore2 C. Cherubini et al.
  • 1HydrISE, Institut Polytechnique LaSalle Beauvais, 19 rue Pierre Waguet, 60026 Beauvais Cedex, France
  • 2Polytechnical University of Bari, Bari, Italy

Abstract. During a risk assessment procedure as well as when dealing with cleanup and monitoring strategies, accurate predictions of solute propagation in fractured rocks are of particular importance when assessing exposure pathways through which contaminants reach receptors.

Experimental data obtained under controlled conditions such as in a laboratory allow to increase the understanding of the fundamental physics of fluid flow and solute transport in fractures.

In this study, laboratory hydraulic and tracer tests have been carried out on an artificially created fractured rock sample. The tests regard the analysis of the hydraulic loss and the measurement of breakthrough curves for saline tracer pulse inside a rock sample of parallelepiped shape (0.60 × 0.40 × 0.08 m). The convolution theory has been applied in order to remove the effect of the acquisition apparatus on tracer experiments.

The experimental results have shown evidence of a non-Darcy relationship between flow rate and hydraulic loss that is best described by Forchheimer's law. Furthermore, in the flow experiments both inertial and viscous flow terms are not negligible.

The observed experimental breakthrough curves of solute transport have been modeled by the classical one-dimensional analytical solution for the advection–dispersion equation (ADE) and the single rate mobile–immobile model (MIM). The former model does not properly fit the first arrival and the tail while the latter, which recognizes the existence of mobile and immobile domains for transport, provides a very decent fit.

The carried out experiments show that there exists a pronounced mobile–immobile zone interaction that cannot be neglected and that leads to a non-equilibrium behavior of solute transport. The existence of a non-Darcian flow regime has showed to influence the velocity field in that it gives rise to a delay in solute migration with respect to the predicted value assuming linear flow. Furthermore, the presence of inertial effects enhance non-equilibrium behavior. Instead, the presence of a transitional flow regime seems not to exert influence on the behavior of dispersion. The linear-type relationship found between velocity and dispersion demonstrates that for the range of imposed flow rates and for the selected path the geometrical dispersion dominates the mixing processes along the fracture network.