December 12, 2021

Spectral Induced Polarization-Biogeochemical Relationships for Remediation Amendment Monitoring


Geophysical tools such as electrical resistivity (ER) can indirectly monitor subsurface changes in response to remedial injections. These methods exhibit relatively low spatial resolution compared to sediment core characterization but are advantageous due to the ability to collect measurements non-intrusively over time across large volumes of the subsurface. Moreover, along with confirmatory groundwater or core sampling, geophysical methods can be used during active biogeochemical remedies to monitor short-term contaminant transformations and mobility, as well as part of an overall strategy for long-term monitoring of subsurface contaminated sites. The use of alternating current spectral induced polarization (SIP) provides significantly more information than conventional geophysical methods like direct current ER. SIP allows for monitoring changes in both solution and surface conductivity by separation of real and imaginary conductivity, respectively, as well as surface capacitance. In principle, SIP can measure indicators of remedy progression such as precipitation reactions that sequester contaminants, potentially providing a better indication of amendment delivery and reactivity as compared to conventional ER methods. However, multiple processes and material properties have overlapping (interacting) electrical responses across a range of frequencies. Hence, the purpose of this scoping study was to evaluate if SIP can be used to monitor (a) amendment delivery and (b) precipitation and reactivity of amendments under consideration at Hanford. SIP measurements were collected in fully saturated columns packed with sand and Hanford formation sediments containing (a) amendments that were highly conductive with significant capacitance (zero valent iron – ZVI, sulfur modified iron – SMI) and (b) amendments that exhibited low electrical conductivity with a small capacitance (calcite, apatite, bismuth). The sand was a quartz material with homogenous particle size that exhibited a relatively low surface conductivity. It was used as a control for comparison with the sediments from the Hanford Site, which have a greater surface conductivity because of their complex mineralogy and heterogeneous particle size distribution and may have complex interactions with amendments. The amendment mass fraction was varied to represent the different stages and subsurface locations associated with the delivery of a remedy. The primary objective was to identify the solution and solid surface changes associated with the delivery amendments and their secondary reactions within the subsurface. The figure below summarizes results for the amendments tested through this project. The SIP phase shift or imaginary conductivity change for the high conductivity amendments was more than 10 times that of the low conductivity amendments, highlighting the relative ease of detection of ZVI and SMI independent of the background signal from sand or Hanford sediments. The ZVI phase shift and imaginary conductivity changes occur primarily at high frequency (> 100 Hz) whereas SMI changes were at low frequency (0.01 to 10 Hz). SIP signals of SMI also increased over time and the maximum shifted to lower frequencies. The low conductivity amendments (calcite, abiotic and biotic apatite, bismuth subnitrate) exhibited relatively small phase and imaginary conductivity changes when added to sediments. The changes were above minimum detection limits (0.5 mrad for phase shift, 0.03 µS/cm for imaginary conductivity) for the highest concentration except for the commercial bismuth material. The lowest amendment concentration that can be detected is likely sediment specific, as minerals in sediments (clays, magnetite, Fe-oxides) have some capacitance and, therefore, exhibit a variable phase shift.

Published: December 12, 2021


Emerson H.P., J.E. Szecsody, A.R. Lawter, C.D. Halter, A.R. Mangel, E.H. Fernald, and C.T. Resch, et al. 2021. Spectral Induced Polarization-Biogeochemical Relationships for Remediation Amendment Monitoring Richland, WA: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Research topics