Seismic stimulation, the application of low-frequency stress-pulsing to the boundary of a porous medium containing water and a non-aqueous fluid to enhance the removal of the latter, shows great promise for both contaminated groundwater remediation and enhanced oil recovery, but theory to elucidate the underlying mechanisms lag significantly behind the progress achieved in experimental research. We address this conceptual lacuna by formulating a boundary-value problem to describe pore-pressure pulsing at seismic frequencies that is based on the continuum theory of poroelasticity for an elastic porous medium permeated by two immiscible fluids. An exact analytical solution is presented that is applied numerically using elasticity parameters and hydraulic data relevant to recent proof-of-principle laboratory experiments investigating the stimulation-induced mobilization of trichloroethene (TCE) in water flowing through a compressed sand core. The numerical results indicated that significant stimulation-induced increases of the TCE concentration in effluent can be expected from pore-pressure pulsing in the frequency range of 25-100. Hz, which is in good agreement with what was observed in the laboratory experiments. Sensitivity analysis of our numerical results revealed that the TCE concentration in the effluent increases with the porous medium framework compressibility and the pulsing pressure. Increasing compressibility also leads to an optimal stimulation response at lower frequencies, whereas changing the pulsing pressure does not affect the optimal stimulation frequency. Within the context of our model, the dominant physical cause for enhancement of non-aqueous fluid mobility by seismic stimulation is the dilatory motion of the porous medium in which the solid and fluid phases undergo opposite displacements, resulting in stress-induced changes of the pore volume.
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