Mapping Contaminant Remediation with Electrical Resistivity Tomography
Friday, 19 December 2014
The remediation of sites contaminated with industrial chemicals – specifically dense non-aqueous phase liquids (DNAPLs) like coal tar and chlorinated solvents - represents a major geoenvironmental challenge. Remediation activities would benefit from a non-destructive technique to map the evolution of DNAPL mass in space and time. Electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) has long-standing potential in this context but has not yet become a common tool at DNAPL sites. This work evaluated the potential of time-lapse ERT for mapping DNAPL mass reduction in real time during remediation. Initially, a coupled DNAPL-ERT numerical model was developed for exploring this potential at the field scale, generating realistic DNAPL scenarios and predicting the response of an ERT survey. Also, new four-dimensional (4D) inversion algorithms were integrated for tracking DNAPL removal over time. 4D ERT applied at the surface for mapping an evolving DNAPL distribution was first demonstrated in a laboratory experiment. Independent simulation of the experiment demonstrated the reliability of the DNAPL-ERT model for simulating real systems. The model was then used to explore the 4D ERT approach at the field scale for a range of realistic DNAPL remediation scenarios. The approach showed excellent potential for mapping shallow DNAPL changes. However, remediation at depth was not as well resolved. To overcome this limitation, a new surface-to-horizontal borehole (S2HB) ERT configuration is proposed. A second laboratory experiment was conducted that demonstrated that S2HB ERT does better resolve changes in DNAPL distribution relative to surface ERT, particularly at depth. The DNAPL-ERT model was also used to demonstrate the improved mapping of S2HB ERT for field scale DNAPL scenarios. Overall, this work demonstrates that, with these innovations, ERT exhibits significant potential as a real time, non-destructive geoenvironmental remediation site monitoring tool.