Foam Transport in Porous Media - A Review

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Amendment solutions with or without surfactants have been used to remove contaminants from soil. However, it has drawbacks such that the amendment solution often mobilizes the plume, and its movement is controlled by gravity and preferential flow paths. Foam is an emulsion-like, two-phase system in which gas cells are dispersed in a liquid and separated by thin liquid films called lamellae. Potential advantages of using foams in sub-surface remediation include providing better control on the volume of fluids injected, uniformity of contact, and the ability to contain the migration of contaminant laden liquids. It is expected that foam can serve ... continued below

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Zhang, Z. F.; Freedman, Vicky L. & Zhong, Lirong November 11, 2009.

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Amendment solutions with or without surfactants have been used to remove contaminants from soil. However, it has drawbacks such that the amendment solution often mobilizes the plume, and its movement is controlled by gravity and preferential flow paths. Foam is an emulsion-like, two-phase system in which gas cells are dispersed in a liquid and separated by thin liquid films called lamellae. Potential advantages of using foams in sub-surface remediation include providing better control on the volume of fluids injected, uniformity of contact, and the ability to contain the migration of contaminant laden liquids. It is expected that foam can serve as a carrier of amendments for vadose zone remediation, e.g., at the Hanford Site. As part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s EM-20 program, a numerical simulation capability will be added to the Subsurface Transport Over Multiple Phases (STOMP) flow simulator. The primary purpose of this document is to review the modeling approaches of foam transport in porous media. However, as an aid to understanding the simulation approaches, some experiments under unsaturated conditions and the processes of foam transport are also reviewed. Foam may be formed when the surfactant concentration is above the critical micelle concentration. There are two main types of foams – the ball foam (microfoam) and the polyhedral foam. The characteristics of bulk foam are described by the properties such as foam quality, texture, stability, density, surface tension, disjoining pressure, etc. Foam has been used to flush contaminants such as metals, organics, and nonaqueous phase liquids from unsaturated soil. Ball foam, or colloidal gas aphrons, reportedly have been used for soil flushing in contaminated site remediation and was found to be more efficient than surfactant solutions on the basis of weight of contaminant removed per gram of surfactant. Experiments also indicate that the polyhedral foam can be used to enhance soil remediation. The transport of foam in porous media is complicated in that the number of lamellae present governs flow characteristics such as viscosity, relative permeability, fluid distribution, and interactions between fluids. Hence, foam is a non-Newtonian fluid. During transport, foam destruction and formation occur. The net result of the two processes determines the foam texture (i.e., bubble density). Some of the foam may be trapped during transport. According to the impacts of the aqueous and gas flow rates, foam flow generally has two regimes – weak and strong foam. There is also a minimum pressure gradient to initiate foam flow and a critical capillary for foam to be sustained. Similar to other fluids, the transport of foam is described by Darcy’s law with the exception that the foam viscosity is variable. Three major approaches to modeling foam transport in porous media are the empirical, semi-empirical, and mechanistic methods. Mechanistic approaches can be complete in principal but may be difficult to obtain reliable parameters, whereas empirical and semi-empirical approaches can be limited by the detail used to describe foam rheology and mobility. Mechanistic approaches include the bubble population-balance model, the network/percolation theory, the catastrophe theory, and the filtration theory. Among these methods, all were developed for modeling polyhedral foam with the exception that the method based on the filtration theory was for the ball foam (microfoam).

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  • Report No.: PNNL-18918
  • Grant Number: AC05-76RL01830
  • DOI: 10.2172/1016458 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1016458
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc841157

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  • November 11, 2009

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 3:16 p.m.

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  • Nov. 28, 2016, 4:39 p.m.

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Zhang, Z. F.; Freedman, Vicky L. & Zhong, Lirong. Foam Transport in Porous Media - A Review, report, November 11, 2009; Richland, Washington. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc841157/: accessed August 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.