The impact of tides on the capillary transition zone
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The capillary transition zone, also known as the capillary fringe, is a zone where water saturations decrease with height above the water table/oil–water contact as a result of capillary action. In some oil reservoirs, this zone may contain a significant proportion of the oil in place. In groundwater assessments, the capillary fringe can profoundly affect contaminant transport. In this study, we investigated the influence of a tidally induced, semi-diurnal, change in water table depth on the water saturation distribution in the capillary fringe/transition zone. The investigation used a mixture of laboratory experiments, in which the change in saturation with depth was monitored over a period of 90 days, and numerical simulation. We show that tidal changes in water table depth can significantly alter the vertical water saturation profile from what would be predicted using capillary–gravity equilibrium and the drainage or imbibition capillary pressure curves.
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