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On the role of multicomponent diffusion and electrochemical migration for reactive transport in porous media Rasouli, Pejman

Abstract

In multicomponent solutions, electrostatic coupling between charged species leads to a process called “electromigration”. Neglecting electromigration results in a charge imbalance and an incomplete and unrealistic description of mass transfer. Although not commonly considered in reactive transport codes, electromigration can strongly affect mass transport processes and can explain unexpected behaviors such as uphill diffusion or isotope fractionation. Including electrostatic coupling in reactive transport codes enables simulation of problems involving mass transport by advection and diffusion, electromigration and geochemical reactions, such as electrokinetic remediation and the geobattery concept associated with buried ore bodies. There are generally two methods for coupling charge and mass continuities. The first method is based on the null-current approach which assumes negligible electric current transmission. The second method considers explicit coupling of mass and electric fluxes. In this study both methods are investigated and their implications for reactive transport are examined. To this end, MIN3P, a fully coupled 3D reactive transport code, was extended by integrating the Nernst-Planck and Gauss-Ampère equations. The implementation of the Nernst-Planck equations was verified by inter-comparison with other existing reactive transport codes based on a set of benchmark problems. At the same time, these benchmark problems illustrate the effect of electric coupling during multicomponent diffusion and electrochemical migration. By explicit coupling of the Nernst-Planck and Gauss-Ampère equations, MIN3P was further enhanced to simulate electrokinetic remediation and the resulting code was tested for desalination problems. In addition, scenario and sensitivity analysis were used to investigate the potential for spontaneous exsolution of gases in response to gas generation at the electrodes of electrokinetic remediation systems. Finally, a process-based model linking surface-measureable self-potential signals to electrochemical transport and geochemical reactions associated with buried metallic bodies was developed. The enhanced code provides a reactive transport modeling framework for process-based forward modeling of self-potential signals and associated geochemical signatures of buried ore bodies and allows a quantitative investigation of the “geobattery concept”. The code was tested based on published data from a laboratory experiment involving a buried iron bar and used to evaluate the geobattery concept based on an illustrative example of a buried ore body.

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