Experimental studies of self-sustaining thermal aquifer remediation (STAR) for non-aqueous phase liquid (NAPL) sources

Christine Switzer, Paolo Pironi, Guillermo Rein, Jose L. Torero, Jason I. Gerhard

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Self-sustaining Thermal Aquifer Remediation (STAR) is a novel technology that employs smouldering combustion for the remediation of subsurface contamination by non-aqueous phase liquids (NAPLs). Smouldering is a form of combustion that is slower and less energetic than flaming combustion. Familiar examples of smouldering involve solid fuels that are destroyed by the reaction (e.g., a smouldering cigarette or peat smouldering after a wildfire). In STAR, the NAPL serves as the fuel within an inert, porous soil medium. Results from experiments across a range of scales are very promising. Detailed characterisation has focused on coal tar, a common denser-than-water NAPL (DNAPL) contaminant. Complete remediation is demonstrated across this range of scales. Visual observations are supported bychemical extraction results. Further experiments suggest that STAR can be self-sustaining, meaning that once ignited the process can supply its own energy to propagate. Costly energy input is reduced significantly. Comparison of large scale to small scale laboratory experiments, a volume increase by a factor of 100, suggests that STAR process efficiency increases with scale. This increase in efficiency results from reduced heat losses at larger scales while maximum the temperature achieved by STAR is unaffected. The research also demonstrates the controllability of STAR, where the termination of airflow to the reaction terminates the STAR process. The scale-up process provides important guidance to the development of full scale STAR for ex situ remediation of NAPL-contaminated soil.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventConSoil 2008 - Milan, Italy
Duration: 3 Jun 20086 Jun 2008


ConferenceConSoil 2008
CityMilan, Italy


  • self-sustaining thermal aquifer remediation
  • non-aqueous phase liquid
  • NAPL
  • civil engineering
  • remediation
  • thermal aquifer


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