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Measurements and models of reactive transport in geological media

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Abstract

Reactive chemical transport plays a key role in geological media across scales, from pore scale to aquifer scale. Systems can be altered by changes in solution chemistry and a wide variety of chemical transformations, including precipitation/dissolution reactions that cause feedbacks that directly affect the flow and transport regime. The combination of these processes with advective-dispersive-diffusive transport in heterogeneous media leads to a rich spectrum of complex dynamics. The principal challenge in modeling reactive transport is to account for the subtle effects of fluctuations in the flow field and species concentrations; spatial or temporal averaging generally suppresses these effects. Moreover, it is critical to ground model conceptualizations and test model outputs against laboratory experiments and field measurements. This review emphasizes the integration of these aspects, considering carefully designed and controlled experiments at both laboratory and field scales, in the context of development and solution of reactive transport models based on continuum-scale and particle tracking approaches. We first discuss laboratory experiments and field measurements that define the scope of the phenomena and provide data for model comparison. We continue by surveying models involving advection-dispersion-reaction equation and continuous time random walk formulations. The integration of measurements and models is then examined, considering a series of case studies in different frameworks. We delineate the underlying assumptions, and strengths and weaknesses, of these analyses, and the role of probabilistic effects. We also show the key importance of quantifying the spreading and mixing of reactive species, recognizing the role of small-scale physical and chemical fluctuations that control the initiation of reactions.

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