Viscous and gravitational contributions to mixing during vertical brine transport in water-saturated porous media

Water Resour Res. 2007;43(1):W01407.1-W01407.18. doi: 10.1029/2005wr004773.


The transport of fluids miscible with water arises in groundwater contamination and during remediation of the subsurface environment. For concentrated salt solutions, i.e., brines, the increased density and viscosity determine mixing processes between these fluids and ambient groundwater. Under downward flow conditions, gravitational and viscous forces work against each other to determine the interfacial mixing processes. Historically, mixing has been modeled as a dispersive process, as viscous fingering, and as a combination of both using approaches that were both analytical and numerical. A compilation of previously reported experimental data on vertical miscible displacements by fluids with significant density and viscosity contrasts reveals some agreement with a stability analysis presented by Hill (1952). Additional experimental data on one-dimensional dispersion during downward displacement of concentrated salt solutions by freshwater and freshwater displacement by brines support the stability analysis and provides an empirical representation for dispersion coefficients as functions of a gravity number and a mobility ratio.