Experimental investigation of the thermal dispersivity term and its significance in the heat transport equation for flow in sediments

Authors

  • Gabriel C. Rau,

    1. Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of New South Wales, Sydney,Australia
    2. National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of New South Wales, Sydney,Australia
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  • Martin S. Andersen,

    1. Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of New South Wales, Sydney,Australia
    2. National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of New South Wales, Sydney,Australia
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  • R. Ian Acworth

    1. Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of New South Wales, Sydney,Australia
    2. National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training, Water Research Laboratory, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering,University of New South Wales, Sydney,Australia
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Abstract

[1] A review of heat and solute transport in sediments demonstrates that the use of heat as a tracer has not been experimentally evaluated under the same experimental conditions as those used for the evaluation of solute as a tracer. Furthermore, there appears to be disagreement in the earth science literature over the significance of the thermal dispersivity term. To help resolve this disagreement, detailed experimentation with typical groundwater flow velocities (Darcy range, Re < 2.5) was conducted in a specifically designed hydraulic tank containing well-sorted saturated sand. The experiment enabled, for the first time, the precise monitoring of heat and solute tracer movement from a point source in separate runs under identical solid matrix and steady state flow conditions. Experimental results demonstrate that heat transport with natural groundwater flow velocities can reach a transition zone between conduction and convection (0.5 < Pet < 2.5). The thermal dispersion behavior can be described by using a thermal dispersivity coefficient and the square of the thermal front velocity. We propose an empirical formulation for thermal dispersion with Darcy flow in natural porous media and clarify the disagreement regarding its significance. Finally, it was observed that Darcy velocities independently derived from heat and solute experimentation show a systematic discrepancy of up to 20%, and that experimental thermal dispersion results contain significant scatter.

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