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Development of a geophysical and geochemical methodology for, the characterization of hydrocarbon contamination of soil and groundwater

Abstract : The presence of hydrocarbon contamination in the subsurface can modify the physiochemical and biological properties of soil and groundwater. The sensitivity of geophysical methods to biogeochemical changes occurring in contaminated media can be used to monitor hydrocarbon contamination in a fast and inexpensive way. As such, geophysical methods including, electrical resistivity tomography, induced polarization, ground penetrating radar, self-potential and magnetic susceptibility were used in this work to characterize the hydrocarbon contamination and investigate its effects on the soil and groundwater geophysical and geochemical properties at a site impacted by an aged hydrocarbon plume. The geophysical response to hydrocarbon contamination varies according to factors related to the contaminant in question and to the contaminated environment. Therefore, to achieve a better interpretation, the field geophysical data were constrained by geochemical soil boring data which showed that biodegradation is occurring in the site. This was shown through observing elevated total dissolved solids concentrations, elevated groundwater electrical conductivity values, negative redox potential values and depleted terminal electron acceptors concentrations in the contaminated locations. Throughout the investigation, the geophysical measurements supported the conductive model and consistently recorded low resistivity anomalies, high chargeability values and attenuated GPR reflections in the contaminated zones. Additionally, significant negative self-potential anomalies associated with oxidation-reduction processes coupled to the biodegradation of hydrocarbons were recorded in the groundwater contaminated zone. Based on this observation, a redox potential map of the contaminated site was constructed by the inversion of the field self potential data. Throughout the process, a groundwater model was first calibrated to remove the electrokinetic component from the SP signal. Then, the obtained residual self potential data was inverted for the electrical current density by using an inversion algorithm which includes minimizing a cost function with a data misfit contribution and a regularizer. As a result, the obtained current density was used to construct a map of redox potential showing the borders and the redox front of the contaminant plume. The redox contribution was explained by vertical dipoles distributed across the capillary fringe, supporting further the mechanism of bio-geo-battery which was created due to the existence of a strong redox potential gradient between the highly reducing conditions within the plume and the oxidizing conditions outside the plume. Furthermore, elevated magnetic susceptibility values were recorded in the biologically active transition zone where bio-precipitation of iron minerals is occurring. Given these results, this study showed that biological alterations of hydrocarbons induced subtle changes in the pore water biogeochemistry, which consequently modified the geophysical properties of the contaminated sediments. The extent of groundwater contamination was delineated according to the geophysical contrast between the contaminated and clean zones. Moreover, the combination of the different geophysical methods, constrained by the geochemical point measurements, provided insight on the different processes which might have modified the soil and groundwater biogeochemical properties at the contaminated site.
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  • HAL Id : tel-01820616, version 1

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Mohamad Abbas. Development of a geophysical and geochemical methodology for, the characterization of hydrocarbon contamination of soil and groundwater. Earth Sciences. Normandie Université, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017NORMR079⟩. ⟨tel-01820616⟩

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