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Researchers Develop new method to detect hazardous solvents in water and soil

A Purdue University team, led by Joe Sinfield, an associate professor in Purdue’s Lyles School of Civil Engineering, and involving former Purdue researcher Chike Monwuba, has developed a new method to detect the presence of these hazardous solvents in water and soil. The method offers the potential to enhance monitoring operations and improve the efficiency of remediation efforts.

“Our method is accurate, quick and can detect very low concentrations of the target contaminants,” said Sinfield, who also serves as the director of Purdue’s College of Engineering Innovation and Leadership Studies Program.

The Purdue team had initially focused on using Raman spectroscopy to directly detect chlorinated solvents. In this approach, a laser is used to examine a sample and the scattered light is observed to determine its chemical makeup.


The different fundamental light processes during material interaction

“Traditionally, one would look for specific frequencies of scattered light that are indicative of the presence of the chemical of interest,” Sinfield said. “However, after conducting several broad spectral studies of the target compounds in simulated field samples, our team noticed that the light scattered by the water itself was affected by the presence of the chlorinated solvents—in fact more so than the light scattered by the molecules of the target chemical.”

This observation led to the development of a sensing mechanism that is nearly 10 times more sensitive than conventional approaches involving direct observation of the solvents themselves.

Sinfield said the Purdue method also shows promise for detecting chlorine based compounds in other contexts, as well as chemicals such as fluorine, bromine or iodine in an array of application spaces.

The work aligns with Purdue’s Giant Leaps celebration, celebrating the university’s global advancements in health and sustainability as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. These are two of the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

Researchers worked with the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization to patent the innovation, and they are looking for partners to continue developing it. 

U.S.: Opportunity for Environmental R&D Funds for Small & Large Businesses

On January 29th 2019,  the U.S. Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and the U.S. Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) released a solicitation for both small and large businesses to competitively fund research and development for environmental research.

The Department of Defense (DoD) SERDP Office is interested in receiving white papers for research focusing in the areas of Environmental Restoration, Munitions Response, Resource Conservation and Resiliency, and Weapons Systems and Platforms technologies. The ESTCP Office is interested in receiving white papers for innovative technology demonstrations that address DoD environmental and installation energy requirements as candidates for funding.

SERDP supports environmental research relevant to the management and mission of the DoD and supports efforts that lead to the development and application of innovative environmental technologies or methods that improve the environmental performance of DoD by improving outcomes, managing environmental risks, and/or reducing costs or time required to resolve environmental problems.

Awardees under this Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) will be selected through a multi-stage review process. The white paper review step allows interested organizations to submit research white papers for Government consideration without incurring the expense of a full proposal. Based upon the white paper evaluation by SERDP, each of the white paper submitters will be notified as to whether SERDP requests or does not request the submission of a full proposal. As noted in the instructions located on the SERDP website, evaluation criteria for white papers are Technical Merit and SERDP Relevance.

Instructions in the links below pertain to the submission of white papers responding to the SERDP BAA for Environmental Research and Development.  This BAA is for Private Sector Organizations. White papers submitted must be in response to a topic listed in the instructions on this page.

Information Related to the Broad Agency Announcement Open Solicitation

Innovations in Pipeline Design: Leak-proof technology

By Dema Mamon, M.Sc.Pl, BES and John Nicholson, M.Sc., P.Eng.

In Canada, getting approval to construct an oil pipeline has become increasingly difficult. Despite the fact that new, advanced software has led to more sophisticated caesar piping, in Canada every oil pipeline incident that involves a leak and subsequent clean-up is widely covered in the media, providing fuel for pipeline opponents that call an end to the construction of new pipelines.

Abacus Data Inc., an Ottawa-based research firm, has been tracking public opinion on the construction of new pipeline capacity and has found some interesting trends. Since 2014, polling has shown that the negative view of building new oil pipelines has remained steady at 21 to 22% range. However, there was a drop in the positive attitude amongst Canadians toward building new pipelines – from 58% in 2014 to 44% in 2017. Over that three year span, a good proportion of Canadians who once viewed building new pipeline capacity with a positive attitude have shifted to a neutral view. The neutral view on oil pipelines have grown from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2017.

There can be many theories to explain the three year shift in public opinion on new oil pipelines. One plausible theory is that oil spills from pipelines typically make headline news, thus leaving an impression in the minds of Canadians the perhaps pipelines are not as safe as the industry states. Oil leaks from pipelines damage the environment, are costly to clean-up, and fuel public opinion that pipelines are not safe.

One way to eliminate the perception that building new oil pipelines is bad for the environment and shift public opinion in favour of such projects is to build pipelines that don’t leak. However, is it even possible to build leak-proof pipelines?

Are Double-Walled Pipelines the Answer?

One logical idea for building leak-proof pipelines is for them to be double-walled. The outer wall would serve as protection from external damage. The technology does exist to construct double-walled pipelines and they are used in certain circumstances such as when there is a large temperature difference between the liquid in the pipe and the surrounding environment.

Double-walled pipelines are not considered the cure-all by some in the industry. Those resistant to the use of double-walled pipelines note that in some instances, it may be more cost effective to protect pipelines from the potential of external damage by burying them or placing slabs over them in higher risk areas. Furthermore, it can be more difficult to monitor a double-walled pipeline and an outer pipe interferes with the maintenance of the inner pipe.

At the University of Calgary, researchers believe their two-walled pipeline design and monitoring system is the solution to preventing spills. Although double-walled pipelines have been around since the 1980’s, Thiago Valentin de Oliveira, an electrical and computer-engineering master’s student, and Martin Mintchev, an engineering professor, say that their design is superior.

The U of Calgary researchers designed and constructed their prototype to consist of a typical steel inner layer with either a steel or plastic outer layer. There is an air gap between inner and outer pipeline contains the oil that leaks from the inner pipeline leak. The real innovation developed by the U of Calgary is the segmentation of the inter-pipe space and the inclusion of a linear wireless network linking the segments. With the segmentation, a leak of oil from the inner pipe enters the air gap between the two pipes and is contained in a section of pipe. Wireless pressure sensors between the two walled layers detect the pressure build up and send an alert to the pipeline control staff.

 

If commercially implemented, the U of Calgary system would allow pipeline operators with the means of quickly shutting down the pipeline when a leak was detected into the outer pipeline and crews could be dispatched to make repairs. The oil that leaked from the inner pipe would be contained in the air gap between the two pipes and be confined to one section of the pipeline.

The U of Calgary researchers estimate that their design would result in an additional 25% in the capital cost of building pipelines. They believe this cost could be reduced if the outer pipeline material was composite materials or plastic.

Is Advanced Monitoring the Solution?

Also in Alberta, a Calgary-based firm, HiFi Engineering, recently announced that it has developed an innovative pipeline leak detection system. Dubbed High-Fidelity Dynamic Sensing (HDS™), the monitoring system can spot the exact location of a leak in a pipeline within seconds of it occurring. The system continuously monitors temperature, sonic and ultrasonic acoustics, and vibration and strain. Any anomaly in the measurements results in an alert being sent to the pipeline company control room.

Hifi Engineering’s High Fidelity Dynamic Sensing (HDS) technology is being called the ‘ears of pipeline monitoring.’

The system works utilizing fiber optic cables that run the length of the pipeline. A laser beam is sent down the length of the optic cable and sends signals back that provide a multitude of information to the pipeline control room.

TransCanada Pipelines Corporation has already installed the HiFi HDS™ monitoring system in sections of the Keystone XL oil pipeline that runs from Canada to the U.S. Also, Enbridge employs the technology in its new northern Alberta pipeline.

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About the Authors

Dema is a graduate of York University’s Bachelor in Environmental Studies program (2008) and the University of Toronto’s Masters of Science in Planning Programme (2010). She is currently pursuing her Canada Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s Green Associate certification. Her research interests include environmental conservation, green infrastructure, and sustainability. She can be reached at dema.mamon@gmail.com.

John Nicholson is the editor of Hazmat Management Magazine. He has over 25 years of experience in the environmental and cleantech sectors. He is a registered professional engineer in the Province of Ontario and has a M.Sc. in environmental engineering. His professional experience includes time at a large engineering consulting firm, a major Canadian law firm, and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.