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Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Jan 3;46(1):426-33. doi: 10.1021/es202278s. Epub 2011 Dec 12.

Mobilization of manufactured gas plant tar with alkaline flushing solutions.

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  • 1Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. shaus@live.unc.edu


This experimental study investigates the use of alkaline and alkaline-polymer solutions for the mobilization of former manufactured gas plant (FMGP) tars. Tar-aqueous interfacial tensions (IFTs) and contact angles were measured, and column flushing experiments were conducted. NaOH solutions (0.01-1 wt.%) were found to significantly reduce tar-aqueous IFT. Contact angles indicated a shift to strongly water-wet, then to tar-wet conditions as NaOH concentration increased. Column experiments were conducted with flushing solutions containing 0.2, 0.35, and 0.5% NaOH, both with and without xanthan gum (XG). Between 10 and 44% of the residual tar was removed by solutions containing only NaOH, while solutions containing both NaOH and XG removed 81-93% of the tar with final tar saturations as low as 0.018. The mechanism responsible for the tar removal is likely a combination of reduced IFT, a favorable viscosity ratio, and tar bank formation. Such an approach may have practical applications and would be significantly less expensive than surfactant-based methods.

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