Experiments were carried out in the laboratory to test a theory of transient flow of pure steam in a uniform porous medium. This theory is used extensively in modeling pressure-transient behavior in vapor-dominated geothermal systems. Transient, superheated steam-flow experiments were run by bringing a cylinder of porous material to a uniform initial pressure, and then making a step increase in pressure at one end of the sample, while monitoring the pressure-transient breakthrough at the other end. It was found in experiments run at 100?, 125?, and 146?C that the time required for steam-pressure transients to propagate through an unconsolidated material containing sand, silt, and clay was 10 to 25 times longer than predicted by theory. It is hypothesized that the delay in the steam-pressure transient was caused by adsorption of steam in the porous sample.
In order to account for steam adsorption, a sink term was included in the conservation of mass equation. In addition, energy transfer in the system has to be considered because latent heat is released when steam adsorption occurs, increasing the sample temperature by as much as 10?C. Finally, it was recognized that the steam pressure was a function of both the temperature and the amount of adsorption in the sample. For simplicity, this function was assumed to be in equilibrium adsorption isotherm, which was determined by experiment. By solving the modified mass and energy equations numerically, subject to the empirical adsorption isotherm relationship, excellent theoretical simulation of the experiments was achieved.
The experiments support the hypothesis that adsorption of steam can strongly influence steam pressure-transient behavior in porous media; the results suggest that the modified steam-flow theory, which includes steam adsorption terms, should be used in modeling steam flow in vapor-dominated geothermal systems.
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USGS Numbered Series
Laboratory investigations of the physics of steam flow in a porous medium