Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 68, Issue 7, pp 1835–1848 | Cite as

The effect of heterogeneity of diffusion parameters on chloride transport in low-permeability argillites

Original Article


Understanding flow and transport in low-permeability media is very important in the context of nuclear waste disposal, oil and gas reservoirs and long term evolution of groundwater systems. In low-permeability media, transport by diffusion is often the most important mass transport process. This study investigates the effect of the heterogeneity of diffusion parameters on mass transport in low-permeability media. A geostatistical approach for integrating heterogeneity of diffusion parameters in groundwater flow and transport models is proposed and applied to the Toarcian argillites in France which are studied in the framework of feasibility of storing radioactive waste in deep clayey massifs. Stochastic fields of the diffusion parameters of the Toarcian argillites (France) are generated based on 64 measured values of diffusion coefficient and diffusion accessible porosity and used as input for a 3D local-scale groundwater flow and transport model. The chloride concentrations computed by these heterogeneous models are compared to the measured chloride concentrations and to concentrations calculated with a model in which the Toarcian argillites are subdivided into several homogeneous zones. The heterogeneous simulations result in a slightly better correspondence between measured and calculated values and have the additional advantage that the measured diffusion coefficient values in the Toarcian are perfectly honored in the model. This study shows that small-scale variability of diffusion parameters has a significant effect on solute concentrations and omitting this heterogeneity may be a problem in transport calculations in low-permeability media, depending on the specific setting and objectives of the study.


Diffusion Geostatistics Nuclear waste disposal Chloride transport Heterogeneity Porosity 



The authors wish to acknowledge the Fund for Scientific Research—Flanders for providing a Postdoctoral Fellowship to the first author. The authors thank IRSN for providing the necessary data for this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Applied Geology and Mineralogy, Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesKatholieke Universiteit LeuvenHeverleeBelgium
  2. 2.Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology, Department of Architecture, Geology, Environment, and Civil Engineering (ArGEnCo)Université de LiègeLiègeBelgium

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