Three-phase flow analysis of dense nonaqueous phase liquid infiltration in horizontally layered porous media

E.L. Wipfler, M.I.J. van Dijke, S.E.A.T.M. van der Zee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


We considered dense nonaqueous phase liquid (DNAPL) infiltration into a water-unsaturated porous medium that consists of two horizontal layers, of which the top layer has a lower intrinsic permeability than the bottom layer. DNAPL is the intermediate-wetting fluid with respect to the wetting water and the nonwetting air. The layer interface forms a barrier to DNAPL flow, which causes the DNAPL to spread out horizontally just above the interface. An analytical approximation has been developed to estimate the DNAPL pressure and saturation and the horizontal extension of the DNAPL above the layer interface at steady state for low water saturations. The analytical approximation shows that the DNAPL infiltration is determined by five dimensionless numbers: the heterogeneity factor ¿, the capillary pressure parameter ¿, the gravity number N g , the ratio of the capillary and gravity numbers N c /N g , and the critical DNAPL pressure P o c . Its predictions were compared with the results of a numerical three-phase flow simulator for a number of parameter combinations. For most of these combinations the analytical approximation predicts the DNAPL pressure and saturation profiles at the interface adequately. Using the analytical approximation, we carried out a sensitivity study with respect to the maximum horizontal extension of the plume. The extension of the plumes appears to be highly sensitive to variation of the dimensionless numbers P o c , ¿ and ¿
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)W10101
Number of pages12
JournalWater Resources Research
Publication statusPublished - 2004


  • infiltration
  • groundwater
  • water quality
  • hydrology
  • porous media
  • groundwater flow
  • soil water movement
  • capillary forces
  • redistribution


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