Chemical Engineering Science, Vol.196, 366-383, 2019
Measuring, imaging and modelling solute transport in a microporous limestone
The analysis of dispersive flows in heterogeneous porous media is complicated by the appearance of anomalous transport. Novel laboratory protocols are needed to probe the mixing process by measuring the spatial structure of the concentration field in the medium. Here, we report on a systematic investigation of miscible displacements in a microporous limestone over the range of Peclet numbers, 20 < Pe < 600. Our approach combines pulse-tracer tests with the simultaneous imaging of the flow by Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Validation of the experimental protocol is achieved by means of control experiments on random beadpacks, as well as by comparing observations with both brine- and radio-tracers (labelled with C-11 or F-18). The application of residence time distribution functions reveals mass transport limitations in the porous rock in the form of a characteristic flow-rate effect. Two transport models, namely the Advection Dispersion Equation (ADE) and the Multi-Rate Mass Transfer (MRMT) model, are thoroughly evaluated with both the experimental breakthrough curves and the internal concentration profiles. We observe that the dispersion coefficient scales linearly with the Peclet number for both porous systems. The tracer profiles acquired on the rock sample are successfully described upon application of the MRMT model that uses two representative grain sizes and a fraction of intra-granular pore space that is independent of the fluid velocity. The analysis of the PET images evidences the presence of macrodispersive spreading caused by subcore-scale heterogeneities, which contribute significantly to the value of the estimated core-scale dispersivity. This effect can be significantly reduced upon application of the 'dispersion-echo' technique, which enables decoupling the effects of spreading and mixing in heterogeneous porous media. These observations are likely to apply to any laboratory-scale rock sample and the approach presented here provides a practical means to study anomalous transport in these systems. (C) 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.