Emulsified polycolloid substrate biobarrier for benzene and petroleum-hydrocarbon plume containment and migration control – A field-scale study

T. H. Lee, W. Z. Cao, D. C.W. Tsang, Y. T. Sheu, K. F. Shia, C. M. Kao

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this field-scale study was to assess the effectiveness of applying an emulsified polycolloid substrate (EPS; containing cane molasses, soybean oil, and surfactants) biobarrier in the control and remediation of a petroleum-hydrocarbon plume in natural waters. An abandoned petrochemical manufacturing facility site was contaminated by benzene and other petroleum products due to a leakage from a storage tank. Because benzene is a petroleum hydrocarbon with a high migration ability, it was used as the target compound in the field-scale study. Batch partition and sorption experiment results indicated that the EPS to water partition coefficient for benzene was 232 mg/mg at 25 °C. This suggests that benzene had a higher sorption affinity to EPS, which decreased the benzene concentrations in groundwater. The EPS solution was pressure-injected into three remediation wells (RWs; 150 L EPS in 800 L groundwater). Groundwater samples were collected from an upgradient background well, two downgradient monitor wells (MWs), and the three RWs for analyses. EPS injection increased total organic carbon (TOC) concentrations (up to 786 mg/L) in groundwater, which also resulted in the formation of anaerobic conditions. An abrupt drop in benzene concentration (from 6.9 to below 0.04 mg/L) was observed after EPS supplementation in the RWs due to both sorption and biodegradation mechanisms. Results show that the EPS supplement increased total viable bacteria and enhanced bioremediation efficiency, which accounted for the observed decrease in benzene concentration. The first-order decay rate in RW1 increased from 0.003 to 0.023 d −1 after EPS application. Injection of EPS resulted in significant growth of indigenous bacteria, and 23 petroleum-hydrocarbon-degrading bacterial species were detected, which enhanced the in situ benzene biodegradation efficiency. Results demonstrate that the EPS biobarrier can effectively contain a petroleum-hydrocarbon plume and prevent its migration to downgradient areas, which reduces the immediate risk presented to downgradient receptors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)839-848
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2019


  • Biobarrier
  • Emulsified polycolloid substrate (EPS)
  • Green remediation
  • In situ bioremediation
  • Partition
  • Petroleum hydrocarbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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