We have previously documented changes in bulk electrical conductivity, self-potential (SP), and ground-penetrating-radar (GPR) reflections in a field setting caused by biogeochemical transformations of hydrocarbon-contaminated media. These transformations are associated with hydrocarbon biodegradation. The results of surface geophysical surveys acquired in 1996, 2003, and 2007 document changes in geophysical signatures associated with removing hydrocarbon mass in the contaminated zone. Initial investigations in 1996 showed that relative to background, the contaminated area was characterized by higher bulk electrical conductivity, positive SP anomaly, and attenuated GPR reflections. Repeated surveys in 2003 and 2007 over the contaminated area showed that in 2007, the bulk electrical conductivity had reverted to near-background conditions, the positive SP anomaly became more negative, and the zone of attenuated GPR reflections showed increased signal strength. Removal of hydrocarbon mass in the vadose zone over the plume by a soil vapor-extraction system installed in 2001 was primarily responsible for the changing geophysical responses. Although chemical data from groundwater showed a 3-m-thick conductive plume in 2007, the plume was not imaged by electrical resistivity. Forward modeling suggests that apparent bulk electrical conductivity of the saturated zone plume has to be three to five times higher than background values to be imaged by electrical resistivity. We suggest that removing hydrocarbon-contaminant-mass reduction by natural or engineered bioremediation can be imaged effectively by temporal geophysical surveys.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering


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Keywords and Phrases

Biodegradation; Bioremediation; Electric Conductivity; Geological Surveys; Geophysics; Ground Penetrating Radar Systems; Groundwater; Hydrocarbons; Soil Conservation; Surveys; Background Conditions; Electrical Conductivity; Geophysical Surveys; Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR); Hydrocarbon Biodegradation; Hydrocarbon Contaminants; Soil Vapor Extraction; Surface Geophysical Surveys; Contamination; Contaminated Land; Electrical Resistivity; Forward Modeling; Geophysical Survey; Ground Penetrating Radar; Hydrocarbon; Remediation; Self Potential; Vadose Zone

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Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

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© 2009 Society of Exploration Geophysicists, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jul 2009

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Geology Commons