Simulation of fluid distributions observed at a crude oil spill site incorporating hysteresis, oil entrapment, and spatial variability of hydraulic properties

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Subsurface oil, water, and air saturation distributions were determined using 146 samples collected from seven boreholes along a 120-m transect at a crude oil spill site near Bemidji, Minnesota. The field data, collected 10 years after the spill, show a clearly defined oil body that has an oil saturation distribution that appears to be influenced by sediment heterogeneities and water table fluctuations. The center of the oil body has depressed the water-saturated zone boundary and the oil appears to have migrated laterally within the capillary fringe. A multiphase cross-sectional flow model was developed and used to simulate the movement of oil and water at the spill site. Comparisons between observed and simulated oil saturation distributions serve as an indicator of the appropriateness of using such models to predict the actual spread of organic immiscible liquids at spill sites. Sediment hydraulic properties used in the model were estimated from particle size data. The general large-scale features of the observed oil body were reproduced only when hysteresis with oil entrapment and representations of observed spatial variability of hydraulic properties were incorporated into the model. The small-scale details of the observed subsurface oil distribution were not reproduced in the simulations. The discrepancy between observed and simulated oil distributions reflects the considerable uncertainty in model parameter estimates and boundary conditions, three-phase capillary pressure-saturation-relative permeability functions, representations of spatial variability of hydraulic properties, and hydrodynamics of the groundwater flow system at the study site.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Simulation of fluid distributions observed at a crude oil spill site incorporating hysteresis, oil entrapment, and spatial variability of hydraulic properties
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/93WR00370
Volume 29
Issue 6
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 18 p.
First page 1753
Last page 1770