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A model is outlined that predicts NAPL which is held in pore wedges and as films or lenses on solid and water surfaces and contributes negligibly to NAPL advection. This is conceptually referred to as residual NAPL. Since residual NAPL is immobile, it remains in the vadose zone after all free NAPL has drained. Residual NAPL is very important because it is a long-term source for groundwater contamination. Recent laboratory experiments have demonstrated that current models for predicting subsurface NAPL behavior are inadequate because they do not correctly predict residual NAPL. The main reason for the failure is a deficiency in the current constitutive theories for multiphase flow that are used in numerical simulators. Multiphase constitutive theory governs the relations among relative permeability, saturation, and pressure for fluid systems (i.e., air, NAPL, water). In this paper, we outline a model describing relations between fluid saturations and pressures that can be combined with existing multiphase constitutive theory to predict residual NAPL. We test the revised constitutive theory by applying it to a scenario involving NAPL imbibition and drainage, as well as water imbibition and drainage. The results suggest that the revised constitutive theory is able to predict the distribution of residual NAPL in the vadose zone as a function of saturation-path history. The revised model describing relations between fluid saturation and pressures will help toward developing or improving numerical multiphase flow simulators.


Porous media advection groundwater contamination multiphase flow constitutive theory vadose zone.

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How to Cite
Lenhard, R., Kacimov, A., Tartakovsky, A., & AbdelRahman, H. (2002). Modeling Residual NAPL in Water-Wet Porous Media. Journal of Agricultural and Marine Sciences [JAMS], 7(2), 1–7. Retrieved from