Peer review artikel

Salinization in a stratified aquifer induced by heat transfer from well casings


“The temperature inside wells used for gas, oil and geothermal energy production, as well as steam injection, is in general significantly higher than the groundwater temperature at shallower depths. While heat loss from these hot wells is known to occur, the extent to which this heat loss may result in density-driven flow and in mixing of surrounding groundwater has not been assessed so far. However, based on the heat and solute effects on density of this arrangement, the induced temperature contrasts in the aquifer due to heat transfer are expected to destabilize the system and result in convection, while existing salt concentration contrasts in an aquifer would act to stabilize the system. To evaluate the degree of impact that may occur under field conditions, free convection in a 50-m-thick aquifer driven by the heat loss from penetrating hot wells was simulated using a 2D axisymmetric SEAWAT model. In particular, the salinization potential of fresh groundwater due to the upward movement of brackish or saline water in a stratified aquifer is studied. To account for a large variety of well applications and configurations, as well as different penetrated aquifer systems, a wide range of well temperatures, from 40 to 100 °C, together with a range of salt concentration (1–35 kg/m3) contrasts were considered. This large temperature difference with the native groundwater (15 °C) required implementation of a non-linear density equation of state in SEAWAT. We show that density-driven groundwater flow results in a considerable salt mass transport (up to 166,000 kg) to the top of the aquifer in the vicinity of the well (radial distance up to 91 m) over a period of 30 years. Sensitivity analysis showed that density-driven groundwater flow and the upward salt transport was particularly enhanced by the increased heat transport from the well into the aquifer by thermal conduction due to increased well casing temperature, thermal conductivity of the soil, as well as decreased porosity values. Enhanced groundwater flow and salt transport was also observed for increased hydraulic conductivity of the aquifer. While advective salt transport was dominant for lower salt concentration contrasts, under higher salt concentration contrasts transport was controlled by dispersive mixing at the fresh-salt water interface between the two separate convection cells in the fresh and salt water layers. The results of this study indicate heat loss from hot well casings can induce density-driven transport and mixing processes in surrounding groundwater. This process should therefore be considered when monitoring for long-term groundwater quality changes near wells through which hot fluids or gases are transported.”

(Citaat: Lopik, J.H. van, Hartog, N., et al. – Salinization in a stratified aquifer induced by heat transfer from well casings – Advances in Water Resources 86(2015),p. 32-45)

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