Abstract

Reactive transport (RT) couples bio-geo-chemical reactions and transport. RT is important to understand numerous scientific questions and solve some engineering problems. RT is highly multidisciplinary, which hinders the development of a body of knowledge shared by RT modelers and developers. The goal of this paper is to review the basic conceptual issues shared by all RT problems, so as to facilitate advancement along the current frontier: biochemical reactions. To this end, we review the basic equations to indicate that chemical systems are controlled by the set of equilibrium reactions, which are easy to model, but whose rate is controlled by mixing. Since mixing is not properly represented by the standard advection-dispersion equation (ADE), we conclude that this equation is poor for RT. This leads us to review alternative transport formulations, and the methods to solve RT problems using both the ADE and alternative equations. Since equilibrium is easy, difficulties arise for kinetic reactions, which is especially true for biochemistry, where numerous challenges are open (how to represent microbial communities, impact of genomics, effect of biofilms on flow and transport, etc.). We conclude with the basic eleven conceptual issues that we consider fundamental for any conceptually sound RT effort.