IAH-NL MSc Thesis Prize (PSSP 2022)

Pieter Stuyfzand Scriptie Prijs 2022: Results


The board of The Netherlands Chapter of IAH is pleased to announce that the MSc theses, nominated for the 2022 Pieter Stuyfzand Scriptie Prijs (PSSP) have now been thoroughly evaluated. This year’s evaluation resulted in three MSc theses receiving honorable mentions with their nomination and selection as candidates for the PSSP 2022, and stand out as clear examples of the high level of ongoing hydrogeological research in the Netherlands.

PSSP 2022 Honorable mentions

Mark van Haaren (Utrecht University) explored the fundamental and complex relationship between heterogeneity in aquifer permeability and the dispersion of solute tracers in numerical experiments, testing different approaches and comparing with analytical solutions. His research was reported in the MSc thesis “Capturing the effect of geological heterogeneity in multiple transport models: A  framework for numerical tracer test analysis of a heterogeneous aquifer analog” showing that while for a small homogeneous scale dispersion can be addressed by (micro-) dispersivity in the classical advection-dispersion equation (ADE), for a larger scale the (macro-) dispersivity resulting from aquifer heterogeneity could be simplified to block structures using stochastic binary inclusions.

The removal of organic contaminants related to road runoff in sustainable urban drainage structures (SUDs) is important to enable urban groundwater recharge. In her thesis on “Biochar and Activated Carbon for Enhanced Retention of Relevant Vehicle-Related Contaminants in Green Infrastructures” María Alejandra Cruz Bolaños (IHE Delft) looked deep into the effect of biochar on organic contaminant removal in SUDs, utilizing analytical, experimental and numerical methods. The testing of different amendments showed increased removal of a range of road runoff related contaminants as well as competition for adsorption and degradation with natural organic matter (NOM), with enhanced degradation in those biologically active amended experiments. It was concluded that a key aspect in optimizing the SUDs is finding a balance between both sufficient removal and infiltration rates.

The pitfalls and performance of the long standing empirical approaches to relating porosity and grain size distributions to aquifer permeability and grain size-permeability relationships were numerically evaluated using a wide range of pore scale simulations by Ruben Zijlstra (Utrecht University). The outcomes of his research were reported in his thesis “Uncertainty of Porosity-Permeability Relationships from REV-scale Numerical Fluid Simulations”. Comparing irregular grained and circular grained porous media with different spatial distribution of the grains in the simulated domain showed a near linear log-normal relationship between permeability, However, scatter increased with porosity increasing, and deviations with often-used empirical relationships under or overestimated well over a factor 10, even for circular grained porous media. This study illustrates and emphasizes that fundamental aspects in hydrogeology that have been long-relying on poorly validated empirical approaches deserve more extensive research, such as how pore scale processes influence aquifer permeability.

Winner PSSP 2022

Despite the difficulty of evaluating three excellent theses, it was concluded after careful deliberation that the advanced pore scale research as derived from impressively advanced and challenging numerical approaches to further hydrogeological science in a very fundamental topic of hydrogeology  was very well performed and very clearly presented. This made Ruben Zijlstra the overall favorable candidate for our PSSP 2022. We therefore congratulate Ruben with the PSSP 2022 and look forward to him presenting his thesis work during the next IAH-NL meeting, for which the date will be announced in the near future.