Precipitation and dissolution of reactive solutes in fractures


  • Peter Dijk,

  • Brian Berkowitz


The precipitation and dissolution of reactive solutes, transported under the action of fully developed laminar flow in saturated fractures, is analyzed assuming an irreversible first-order kinetic surface reaction for one component. Equations describing solute transport, precipitation and dissolution, and the evolution of fracture aperture were approximated and solved using combined analytical and numerical techniques; dimensionless transport parameters incorporated into the solutions were estimated from data available in the literature. Fractures with initially flat, linearly constricted, and sinusoidal apertures were investigated. The initial fracture geometry and the solute saturation content of the inflowing fluid have a profound effect on the reaction processes. The results show that the evolution of the solute transport and fracture geometry can be adequately described by the Damköhler and Péclet numbers. Two extreme transport regimes were identified: relatively uniform evolution of fracture apertures and nonuniform evolution of fracture apertures restricted to the inlet region of fractures. In the case of precipitation with half-life times of the order of seconds to years and with fluid residence times of the order of minutes to days, the time for a fracture to close completely is of the order of days to millions of years. This is consistent with the order of magnitude of hydrogeological timescales. In the model the process of dissolution is the inverse of precipitation, although the combined solute transport and reaction processes are irreversible. These results and the applied dimensionless analysis can be used as a basis for the development of more complex models of reactive solute transport, precipitation, and dissolution in saturated fractured media.