Indications of Coupled Carbon and Iron Cycling at a Hydrocarbon-Contaminated Site from Time-Lapse Magnetic Susceptibility (MS) Profiles
Thursday, 17 December 2015: 09:30
3016 (Moscone West)
Magnetic susceptibility (MS) data acquired at hydrocarbon contaminated sites have documented enhanced MS within the smear zone (zone of water table fluctuation at hydrocarbon contaminated location) coincident with the free phase (mobile or free liquids moving down through the unsaturated zone independent of the direction of flow of the groundwater or surface water) hydrocarbon plume These studies suggest that magnetic susceptibility can be used as a tool to: (1) infer regions of hydrocarbon contamination, and (2) investigate intrinsic bioremediation by iron reducing bacteria. We performed a campaign of time-lapse MS monitoring at the National Crude Oil Spill Fate and Natural Attenuation Research Site (Bemidji, MN) between July 2011 and August 2015. This highly instrumented site has multiple boreholes installed through the free phase, dissolved phase and uncontaminated portions of the aquifer impacted by an oil spill resulting from a pipeline rupture in 1979. Magnetic susceptibility (MS) data acquired in 2011 showed that MS values in the smear zone are higher than in the dissolved phase plume and background, leading to the hypothesis that MS measurements could be used to monitor the long-term progress of biodegradation at the site. However, repeated MS data acquired in 2014 and 2015 showed strong changes in the character of the MS signal in the smear zone with multiple free phase contamination locations showing a strong suppression of the signal relative to that observed in 2011. Other locations in the dissolved phase of the plume show evidence for vertical migration of the zone of enhanced MS, possibly due to changes in the redox profiles driven by hydrology. Such changes in the MS signal are hypothesized to result from either variations in Fe(II)/Fe(III) ratios in the magnetite or changes in the magnetite concentration associated with coupled carbon and iron biogeochemistry. This work is generating a unique time-lapse geophysical dataset providing information on the spatial and temporal dynamics of iron mineral transformations associated with hydrocarbon degradation at the site.