14-17 May 2018
New Orleans
US/Central timezone

Mathematical modeling of BTEX concentrations on the unsaturated zone using a simple finite differences model: evaluation of the mass distribution between phases

15 May 2018, 17:15
New Orleans

New Orleans

Poster MS 1.21: Hydraulics and mechanics of unsaturated porous media: current state of knowledge and practice Poster 2




The impact of fuel spills on the unsaturated zone are one of the main environmental issues when licensing new fuel stations or industrial facilities where Underground Storage Tanks (UST) are used. The development and use of fate and transport models of organic pollutants (BTEX) on the vadose zone can therefore be used to understand the behavior of these pollutants under different scenarios.

This paper describes the results obtained when using a simple one-dimensional finite different vadose zone leaching model that describes the movement of organic contaminants within and between three different phases: (1) as a solute dissolved in water, (2) as a gas in the vapor phase, and (3) as an absorbed compound in the soil phase. The model uses a numerical approximation of the Millington Equation, a theoretical based model for gaseous diffusion in porous media. This equation has been widely used in the field of soil physics and hydrology to calculate the gaseous or vapor diffusion in porous media.

Initially, the equilibrium distribution of contaminant mass between liquid, gas and sorbed phases is calculated. Transport processes are then simulated. Liquid advective transport is calculated based on values defined by the user for infiltration and soil water content. The contaminant in the vapor phase migrates into or out of adjacent cells based on the calculated concentration gradients that exist between adjacent cells. After the mass is exchanged between the cells, the total mass in each cell is recalculated and re-equilibrated between the different phases. At the end of the simulation, (1) an overall area-weighted groundwater impact for the entire modeled area and (2) the concentration profile of BTEX on the vadose zone are calculated.

The distribution of total mass of pollutants between the three phases is shown. A sensitivity analysis of the model parameters to a set of soil contamination scenarios caused by a set of BTEX spills from synthetic underground storage tanks is presented. Results demonstrate the applicability of simple numerical models for the environmental analysis of new industrial sites where soil contamination may be caused by organic pollutants.


Ravi, V. and Johnson, J.A. VLEACH, A One-Dimensional Finite Difference Vadose Zone Leaching Model. Version 2.0. USEPA

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Primary author



Dr J. Jaime Gómez-Hernández (Universitat Politecnica de Valencia) María Elena Rodrigo-Clavero (Universitat Politecnica de Valencia) Anna Mafé Martí (Universitat Politècnica de València)

Presentation Materials