Local Equilibrium and Retardation Revisited

Scott K. Hansen, Velimir V. Vesselinov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations

Abstract

In modeling solute transport with mobile-immobile mass transfer (MIMT), it is common to use an advection-dispersion equation (ADE) with a retardation factor, or retarded ADE. This is commonly referred to as making the local equilibrium assumption (LEA). Assuming local equilibrium, Eulerian textbook treatments derive the retarded ADE, ostensibly exactly. However, other authors have presented rigorous mathematical derivations of the dispersive effect of MIMT, applicable even in the case of arbitrarily fast mass transfer. We resolve the apparent contradiction between these seemingly exact derivations by adopting a Lagrangian point of view. We show that local equilibrium constrains the expected time immobile, whereas the retarded ADE actually embeds a stronger, nonphysical, constraint: that all particles spend the same amount of every time increment immobile. Eulerian derivations of the retarded ADE thus silently commit the gambler's fallacy, leading them to ignore dispersion due to mass transfer that is correctly modeled by other approaches. We then present a particle tracking simulation illustrating how poor an approximation the retarded ADE may be, even when mobile and immobile plumes are continually near local equilibrium. We note that classic “LEA” (actually, retarded ADE validity) criteria test for insignificance of MIMT-driven dispersion relative to hydrodynamic dispersion, rather than for local equilibrium.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-117
Number of pages9
JournalGround Water
Volume56
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences

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