Cryogenic Coring and Magnetic Resonance Imaging for Quantification of Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids in Unconsolidated Soils

Friday, 19 December 2014
Saeed Kiaalhosseini1, Thomas C Sale1, A Ted Watson2, Benjamin D Kohn2, Richard L Johnson3 and Jens Blotevogel1, (1)Colorado State University, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (2)Colorado State University, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (3)Oregon Health & Science University, Institute for Environmental Health, Beaverton, OR, United States
A novel approach of combining cryogenic coring of sediments with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of frozen soil cores is reported. Cryogenic coring has the potential to preserve critical properties of soil cores including the distribution of pore fluids. MRI can provide information on the qualitative and quantitative spatial distribution of non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) contaminants within the cores. Initial results of field-scale cryogenic coring indicated that injecting liquid nitrogen through a cooling coil around a soil core (6.3 cm diameter and 75 cm long) could freeze the core below the water table (water table at 7.2 m) in less than 15 minutes. MRI scanning of soil cores contaminated with trichloroethene (TCE) NAPL indicated that keeping the cores frozen at -20°C can suppress the competing MRI signals of water-bound hydrogen. Comparison of known and measured TCE NAPL saturation using MRI in spiked frozen soil samples showed close agreement. The results confirm the ability of cryogenic coring to prevent redistribution of pore fluids during sample withdrawal and storage. The results of MRI illustrate the ability of this method to discriminate between water and TCE in frozen cores, thus allowing for a sensitive spatial analysis of contaminant distribution. Overall, this novel combined approach has the potential to lower the cost of site investigation while providing an improved basis for site characterization and management.