Probabilistic modeling of natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons

  • Author / Creator
    Hosseini, Amir Hossein
  • Natural attenuation refers to the observed reduction in contaminant concentration via natural processes as contaminants migrate from the source into environmental media. Assessment of the dimensions of contaminant plumes and prediction of their fate requires predictions of the rate of dissolution of contaminants from residual non-aqueous-phase liquids (NAPLs) into the aquifer and the rate of contaminant removal through biodegradation. The available techniques to estimate these parameters do not characterize their confidence intervals by accounting for their relationships to uncertainty in source geometry and hydraulic conductivity distribution. The central idea in this thesis is to develop a flexible modeling approach for characterization of uncertainty in residual NAPL dissolution rate and first-order biodegradation rate by tailoring the estimation of these parameters to distributions of uncertainty in source size and hydraulic conductivity field. The first development in this thesis is related to a distance function approach that characterizes the uncertainty in the areal limits of the source zones. Implementation of the approach for a given monitoring well arrangement results in a unique uncertainty band that meets the requirements of unbiasedness and fairness of the calibrated probabilities. The second development in this thesis is related to a probabilistic model for characterization of uncertainty in the 3D localized distribution of residual NAPL in a real site. A categorical variable is defined based on the available CPT-UVIF data, while secondary data based on soil texture and groundwater table elevation are also incorporated into the model. A cross-validation study shows the importance of incorporation of secondary data in improving the prediction of contaminated and uncontaminated locations. The third development in this thesis is related to the implementation of a Monte Carlo type inverse modeling to develop a screening model used to characterize the confidence intervals in the NAPL dissolution rate and first-order biodegradation rate. The development of the model is based on sequential self-calibration approach, distance-function approach and a gradient-based optimization. It is shown that tailoring the estimation of the transport parameters to joint realizations of source geometry and transmissivity field can effectively reduce the uncertainties in the predicted state variables.

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  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.