Loss of volatile hydrocarbons from an LNAPL oil source

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
By: , and 



The light nonaqueous phase liquid (LNAPL) oil pool in an aquifer that resulted from a pipeline spill near Bemidji, Minnesota, was analyzed for volatile hydrocarbons (VHCs) to determine if the composition of the oil remains constant over time. Oil samples were obtained from wells at five locations in the oil pool in an anaerobic part of the glacial outwash aquifer. Samples covering a 21-year period were analyzed for 25 VHCs. Compared to the composition of oil from the pipeline source, VHCs identified in oil from wells sampled in 2008 were 13 to 64% depleted. The magnitude of loss for the VHCs analyzed was toluene ≫ o-xylene, benzene, C6 and C10–12n-alkanes > C7–C9n-alkanes > m-xylene, cyclohexane, and 1- and 2-methylnaphthalene > 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene and ethylbenzene. Other VHCs including p-xylene, 1,3,5- and 1,2,3-trimethylbenzenes, the tetramethylbenzenes, methyl- and ethyl-cyclohexane, and naphthalene were not depleted during the time of the study. Water–oil and air–water batch equilibration simulations indicate that volatilization and biodegradation is most important for the C6–C9n-alkanes and cyclohexanes; dissolution and biodegradation is important for most of the other hydrocarbons. Depletion of the hydrocarbons in the oil pool is controlled by: the lack of oxygen and nutrients, differing rates of recharge, and the spatial distribution of oil in the aquifer. The mass loss of these VHCs in the 5 wells is between 1.6 and 7.4% in 29 years or an average annual loss of 0.06–0.26%/year. The present study shows that the composition of LNAPL changes over time and that these changes are spatially variable. This highlights the importance of characterizing the temporal and spatial variabilities of the source term in solute-transport models.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Loss of volatile hydrocarbons from an LNAPL oil source
Series title Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
DOI 10.1016/j.jconhyd.2011.06.006
Volume 126
Issue 3-4
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Branch of Regional Research-Eastern Region, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program
Description 13 p.
First page 140
Last page 152
Country United States
State Minnesota
City Bemidji
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details