Single-well injection/recovery tracer tests are considered for use in characterizing and quantifying matrix diffusion in dual-porosity aquifers. Numerical modeling indicates that neither regional drift in homogeneous aquifers, nor heterogeneity in aquifers having no regional drift, nor hydrodynamic dispersion significantly affects these tests. However, when drift is coupled simultaneously with heterogeneity, they can have significant confounding effects on tracer return. This synergistic effect of drift and heterogeneity may help explain irreversible flow and inconsistent results sometimes encountered in previous single-well injection/recovery tracer tests. Numerical results indicate that in a hypothetical single-well injection/recovery tracer test designed to demonstrate and measure dual-porosity characteristics in a fractured dolomite, the simultaneous effects of drift and heterogeneity sometimes yields responses similar to those anticipated in a homogeneous dual-porosity formation. In these cases, tracer recovery could provide a false indication of the occurrence of matrix diffusion. Shortening the shut-in period between injection and recovery periods may make the test less sensitive to drift. Using multiple tracers having different diffusion characteristics, multiple tests having different pumping schedules, and testing the formation at more than one location would decrease the ambiguity in the interpretation of test data.
Additional publication details
Ambiguity in measuring matrix diffusion with single-well injection/recovery tracer tests