Tuesday, 20 May 2014 10:54

CSIRO launches soil contamination detector

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The Remtek in action The Remtek in action

A handheld detector that reduces both the cost and time taken to remediate sites contaminated by petroleum products has been launched to market in the United States.

The device, RemScan, developed by CSIRO and industry partner Ziltek, uses an infrared signal to directly measure petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil, giving a result in around 20 seconds.

In a joint statement the organisations said the ability to rapidly and accurately detect petroleum contamination on site, instead of the traditional method of sending soil samples to a laboratory and waiting days for results, will enable industry to close projects or declare sites contaminant free, faster and with a greater degree of certainty.

"The technology has the potential to save the environmental remediation industry millions of dollars per year in laboratory and project costs globally," CSIRO and Ziltek said.

Petroleum contamination as a result of leaking tanks or industrial spills is a widespread global issue with potentially serious impacts for human and environmental health.

RemScan can be used as a quick in-field screening tool to characterise contaminated sites, to validate spill clean-up areas, or to monitor ongoing contaminant degradation. In remote areas, where laboratory analysis is either not available or is prohibitively expensive – RemScan demonstrates its true value as a quick, easy to use and accurate instrument. The technology is particularly useful for the quantitative measurement of diesel, oil and crude products in soil, but can also be used as a screening tool for lighter fuels such as jet fuel and gasoline.

Successfully commercialised in Australia by Ziltek in 2012, RemScan is now in use by the mining industry and the oil and gas industries in various Australian states. CSIRO holds the recently accepted US patent for the RemScan method, which is licensed exclusively to Ziltek for global distribution.

“CSIRO has enabled the use of infrared spectroscopy for rapid non-destructive prediction of contaminants in soils and soil properties using both near- and mid-infrared spectral regions,” CSIRO’s Professor Mike McLaughlin said.

“CSIRO also identified the potential of this new method to greatly reduce costs to industry and we saw Ziltek as the logical partner for global commercialisation."

Apart from oil detection, CSIRO said is continuing to work with Ziltek to extend the technology to enable rapid detection of other soil contaminants.

Ziltek recently engaged the services of Battelle, an independent testing organization in the United States, to test the accuracy and usability of the technology. Results of this study are due to be published at the upcoming Ninth International Conference on Remediation of Chlorinated and Recalcitrant Compounds to be held May 19-22, 2014, in Monterey, California.

“This international conference is an ideal opportunity to launch RemScan in the US market after our success in Australia. This is regarded as the cornerstone event for the global remediation industry,” Ziltek Managing Director Dr Richard Stewart said.

The conference will attract scientists, engineers, regulators, and other environmental professionals from universities, government, regulatory agencies, R&D and manufacturing firms from more than 30 countries.

Development of RemScan was supported through the HazWaste Fund (EPA Victoria), Bio Innovation SA and the Australian Government through Commercialisation Australia and Enterprise Connect.

CSIRO was recently the target of savage budget cuts from Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott, in a federal budget which boosts defence spending big time but also slashes ICT across the country. 

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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