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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Characterizing Reactive Transport Behavior in a Three-Dimensional Discrete Fracture Network


While several studies have linked network and in-fracture scale properties to conservative transport behavior in subsurface fractured media, studies on reactive transport cases remain relatively underdeveloped. In this study, we explore the behavior of an irreversible kinetic reaction during the interaction of two solute plumes, one consisting of species A and the other species B. When the plumes converge, these species react kinetically to form a new species C via A+ B→ kC. This reactive system is studied using a three-dimensional discrete fracture network (DFN) model coupled with reactive Lagrangian particle tracking. We find that the interplay of network topology and chemical properties of the reactive solutes controls reactive transport processes. The network topology drives species A and B together, and the chemical properties dictate whether and how quickly a reaction occurs. Results demonstrate that reactions are most likely to occur in high-velocity fractures that make up the network backbone. The interplay between species’ chemical properties and transport is characterized by a non-dimensional Damköhler (Da) number. We show that the spatial distribution of reactions is sensitive to Da, which subsequently influences late-time tailing behavior in outlet breakthrough time distributions. The results of this study provide initial insights into how an irreversible reaction occurs during transport in a fracture network, using a methodology that can be applied to study reactive transport in a wide range of fractured media environments and contexts.

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