In order to provide a better understanding of the self-potentials generated by groundwater flow through real in-situ geological conditions and a tool for assisting in the interpretation of SP measurements obtained from such domains, a three-dimensional finite element computer program was written to model self-potentials generated by the flow of liquid through a porous medium.
Using the program, a finite element domain is defined and each element can be assigned separate anisotropic hydraulic, electric and cross-coupling conductivity values. The hydraulic flow is defined by boundary conditions and the hydraulic conductivity distribution and is related to the electric flow through the thermodynamic theory of coupled flows. The program first determines the hydraulic potential distribution, and then calculates the electric current sources before solving for the electric potential distribution. The program was made to be quite user-friendly, versatile and fully graphical.
The program was used to model seepage flow through an earth embankment dam and the results were compared to actual self-potential field measurements. It was found that the results obtained by the program were comparable with field measurements provided that sufficient knowledge of the conductive properties within the dam was available for modelling. The program successfully provides the hydraulic and electric potential distributions throughout the domain based on the input model parameters.