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Water Air Soil Pollut. 2011 Jan;214(1-4):681-698. Epub 2010 May 22.

Non-destructive Analysis of Oil-Contaminated Soil Core Samples by X-ray Computed Tomography and Low-Field Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Relaxometry: a Case Study.


Non-destructive measurements of contaminated soil core samples are desirable prior to destructive measurements because they allow obtaining gross information from the core samples without touching harmful chemical species. Medical X-ray computed tomography (CT) and time-domain low-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) relaxometry were applied to non-destructive measurements of sandy soil core samples from a real site contaminated with heavy oil. The medical CT visualized the spatial distribution of the bulk density averaged over the voxel of 0.31 × 0.31 × 2 mm(3). The obtained CT images clearly showed an increase in the bulk density with increasing depth. Coupled analysis with in situ time-domain reflectometry logging suggests that this increase is derived from an increase in the water volume fraction of soils with depth (i.e., unsaturated to saturated transition). This was confirmed by supplementary analysis using high-resolution micro-focus X-ray CT at a resolution of ∼10 μm, which directly imaged the increase in pore water with depth. NMR transverse relaxation waveforms of protons were acquired non-destructively at 2.7 MHz by the Carr-Purcell-Meiboom-Gill (CPMG) pulse sequence. The nature of viscous petroleum molecules having short transverse relaxation times (T2) compared to water molecules enabled us to distinguish the water-saturated portion from the oil-contaminated portion in the core sample using an M(0)-T2 plot, where M(0) is the initial amplitude of the CPMG signal. The present study demonstrates that non-destructive core measurements by medical X-ray CT and low-field NMR provide information on the groundwater saturation level and oil-contaminated intervals, which is useful for constructing an adequate plan for subsequent destructive laboratory measurements of cores.

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