Smouldering Combustion of Organic Liquids in Porous Media for Remediating NAPL-contaminated Soils
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This research investigated the potential of smouldering combustion to be employed as a remediation approach for soil contaminated by non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs). Small-scale (~15 cm), proof-of-concept experiments were the first to demonstrate that organic liquids embedded within an inert soil matrix can be successfully smouldered. Intermediate-scale (~30 cm) column experiments examined in detail the behaviour of the combustion process including its relationship to mass and energy balance and the evolution of temperature profiles. In addition, detailed evaluations of environmental parameters (e.g., soil concentrations, gas emissions) were conducted. For the first time, it was demonstrated that NAPL smouldering combustion can be self-sustaining (i.e., propagation of the smouldering front after termination of the igniter) and self-terminating (i.e., natural extinction of the reaction after all of the NAPL is destroyed). More than 30 column sensitivity experiments quantified the broad range of process parameters - including contaminant type, contaminant mass, soil type, and oxidizer flow rates - within which the process was self-sustaining and essentially complete remediation was achieved (i.e. contaminant mass removal in excess of 99.5%). Maximum burning temperatures were observed in the range 600-1100 C. Average propagation velocities varied between 0.7e-4 and 1.2e-4 m/s. Intensity and velocity of the process were shown to be controlled by the rate at which oxidizer is delivered. Contaminant type and mass was observed to affect peak temperatures and propagation velocity by influencing the energy balance at the reaction front. Moreover, mass and energy balance models were demonstrated to provide reasonable predictions of the observed propagation velocities. Overall, this research introduced an entirely new approach to the remediation of NAPL-contaminated soils and, further, advanced the understanding of the mechanisms that control the underlying process of smouldering combustion of liquids.