Surfactant Flooding Makes a Comeback: Results of a Full-Scale, Field Implementation to Recover Mobilized NAPL

Authors: P. Sharma , K. Kostarelos, S. Lenschow, A. Christensen, P. de Blanc
Published: February 2020 in Journal of Contaminant Hydrology.


Non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) remediation techniques using surfactants, such as enhanced pump and treat (also known as Surfactant–Enhanced Aquifer Remediation, “SEAR”) and micellar flooding provide a faster and more efficient way to recover NAPL from the subsurface. Micellar flooding is a recovery technique that relies on the ability of surfactants to mobilize the NAPL phase by reducing the interfacial tension between the aqueous phase and the NAPL. The application of micellar flooding for NAPL recovery has been limited to laboratory studies and some pilot–scale field applications primarily due to concerns that the technology might lead to uncontrolled movement of NAPL. This paper presents results from a full-scale field application of the micellar flood process designed to mobilize and recover an LNAPL (Jet fuel) from a surficial sandy aquifer located at a tank facility in western Jutland, Denmark. Phase behavior and flow experiments were conducted with field samples to identify suitable surfactant formulations. A field–scale simulation model was developed that indicated that a line–drive pattern with hydraulic control wells would be optimal for NAPL recovery. In addition to monitoring during the field implementation, monitoring was conducted immediately after and for a period of >1 year. The field implementation resulted in >90% recovery (approximately 36,000 Kg of LNAPL) based on the mass balance using laser–induced fluorescence (LIF) and chemical soil analysis (total petroleum hydrocarbon or TPH and BTEX) data. Post–surfactant flood site monitoring consisted of sampling water from multi–levels and from recovery wells. Groundwater samples were analyzed for total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) and benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX). The pre–treatment and post–treatment mass discharges were also monitored, which led to a relationship between mass discharge with the mass reduction in the source zone. Also, the mass discharge Γ–model commonly used for DNAPL modeling was successfully implemented for LNAPL remediation. Studies of field applications of surfactant remediation processes are not readily available; it is especially rare to present a study of micellar flooding implementation for full-scale remediation processes.