Research being carried out by Dr Steve Thornton at Sheffield University is geared to developing a model of natural attenuation of petroleum hydrocarbons and methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in dual porosity aquifers. Key objectives are:
to determine the importance of aerobic degradation for MTBE identify factors affecting degradation in the aquifer estimate parameter values for organic degradation enhancement processes identify whether degradation occurs in the fractures or matrix understand how dualporosity flow affects the potential for biodegradation A combination of field, laboratory and modelling studies will be used to identify controls on the migration and degradation of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and total xylene (BTEX), and MTBE.
Stable isotope studies and molecular microbial analysis will be used to assess variations in the degradation of contaminants over time and as they spread through the ground. Natural attenuation processes and properties will be recorded, establishing values that can be entered into a process model to be validated at field-scale.
Work begins this May.