Elastic Wave Imaging of in-Situ Bio-Alterations in a Contaminated Aquifer

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Rohit Raj1, Priyank Jaiswal2, Estella A Atekwana2, Brooke Briand2 and Iftekhar Alam2, (1)Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee, Roorkee, India, (2)Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, OK, United States
We present a pioneering report on the utility of seismic methods in imaging bio-induced elastic property changes within a contaminated aquifer. To understand physical properties of contaminated soil, we acquired 48 meters long multichannel seismic profile over the Norman landfill leachate plume in Norman Oklahoma, USA. We estimated both the P- and S- wave velocities respectively using full-waveform inversion of the transmission and the ground-roll coda. The resulting S-wave model showed distinct velocity anomaly (~10% over background) within the water table fluctuation zone bounded by the historical minimum and maximum groundwater table. In comparison, the P-wave velocity anomaly within the same zone was negligible. The Environmental Scanning Electron Microscope (ESEM) images of samples from a core located along the seismic profile clearly shows presence of biofilms in the water table fluctuation zone and their absence both above and below the fluctuation zone. Elemental chemistry further indicates that the sediment composition throughout the core is fairly constant. We conclude that the velocity anomaly in S-wave is due to biofilms. As a next step, we develop mechanistic modeling to gain insights into the petro-physical behavior of biofilm-bearing sediments. Preliminary results suggest that a plausible model could be biofilms acting as contact cement between sediment grains. The biofilm cement can be placed in two ways – (i) superficial non-contact deposition on sediment grains, and (ii) deposition at grain contacts. Both models explain P- and S- wave velocity structure at reasonable (~5-10%) biofilm saturation and are equivocally supported by the ESEM images. Ongoing attenuation modeling from full-waveform inversion and its mechanistic realization, may be able to further discriminate between the two cement models. Our study strongly suggests that as opposed to the traditional P-wave seismic, S-wave acquisition and imaging can be a more powerful tool for in-situ imaging of biofilm formation in field settings with significant implication for bioremediation and microbial enhanced oil recovery monitoring.