New remediation guidelines for petroleum contamination

February 9, 2015 by Adam Barclay, CRC CARE

New industry advice that will place Australia at the global cutting edge in the clean-up of petroleum-based contaminants in groundwater was today released by the Cooperative Research Centre for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CRC CARE).

The report provides state-of-the-art technical advice to industry and government on the best ways to assess, remediate and manage petroleum contamination in soil and groundwater. Of all in Australia, over two-thirds feature .

The report specifically addresses the difficult issue of petroleum light non-aqueous phase liquids (LNAPLs). Less dense than water, these substances float on top of water and can migrate long distances, contaminating drinking water supplies and agricultural water, and emitting toxic vapours into homes and workplaces.

The first of its kind in Australia, the report fills a major gap in Australia's approach to managing a serious and widespread issue.

The new guide is part of a series aimed at industry managers, environmental consultants, remediators, the owners and operators of contaminated sites, and Australian state and federal regulators seeking lasting solutions for petroleum-contaminated sites.

The Managing Director of CRC CARE, Professor Ravi Naidu, says the guide is the result of a worldwide search for the latest and best in clean-up science and technology by the CRC's scientists as well as research carried out under uniquely Australian conditions.

"Subsurface contamination by petroleum hydrocarbons is one of the most common forms of pollution in modern society. It is caused by fuel, oil and gas leaks and spills and commonly occurs around industrial sites where these products have long been used or stored.

"Once this oily residue escapes into groundwater, it critical for human health and environmental safety that it is cleaned up effectively, using the best possible techniques."

Prof Naidu said that Australia, with its large number of jurisdictions and varying environmental rules lacked a single common approach to the issue – and the new report was intended to provide this:
"It is envisaged that this guide will form a platform for a consistent, trans-jurisdictional approach to the management of LNAPL impacts across Australia, and is a focal document for a series of CRC CARE technical reports which address the management of LNAPL and subsurface petroleum hydrocarbons."

The report emphasises that each hydrocarbon pollution scenario is unique, due to variations in the source pollutants, soil and groundwater conditions. Solving the problem requires the methodical application of a systematic approach which involves:

  • engaging with regulators and other stakeholders at an early stage to identify and agree upon remediation goals and end points
  • prioritising sites, particularly where an emergency response to a pollution incident and associated statutory reporting is concerned
  • defining site sensitivity
  • fully understanding the problem
  • setting clear remediation goals and end points
  • selecting the best available, affordable clean-up technology
  • pilot testing the chosen technology
  • designing, installing, and commissioning the system safely
  • monitoring remediation performance
  • developing a sound plan to close out the clean-up, acceptable to all involved.

Development of the guide was overseen by a technical working group and a project advisory group comprising environment and health regulators, industry representatives, environmental practitioners, and researchers.

Explore further: New guide shields Aussies from toxic groundwater, land

More information: he report LNAPL remediation guidance: a practitioners' guide for the analysis, management and remediation of LNAPL, CRC CARE Technical report No. 34, November 2014, is available at

Related Stories

Aussie answer to toxic fire-fighting chemicals

October 6, 2014

Australian scientists have come up with the solution to a world-wide pollution problem – how to mop up the toxic residues left after the use of special foams to fight fires.

Superbugs make green energy from black waste

September 18, 2013

A costly health problem facing countries all over the world – petroleum contamination of groundwater – could soon be tackled by armies of the world's tiniest inhabitants turning toxic waste into green electricity.

Soil contamination detector launched in the US

May 20, 2014

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.

Australia-first toxic seal-off wins award

October 1, 2013

A pioneering method for safely sealing off a huge volume of contaminated soil under a Sydney car park while it was cleaned up has won the CARE Award for 2013.

Bugs and slime to clean poisoned water

September 16, 2013

Australian scientists have developed a way to clean up the potentially deadly arsenic that pollutes the drinking water of tens of millions of people around the world.

Recommended for you

A glimmer of hope for the world's coral reefs

December 10, 2018

The future of the world's coral reefs is uncertain, as the impact of global heating continues to escalate. However, according to a study published today in Nature Climate Change, the response of the Great Barrier Reef to ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Enviro Equipment Blog
not rated yet Feb 09, 2015
It's highly unlikely that these new guidelines will put Australia at the "global cutting edge in the clean-up of petroleum-based contaminants in groundwater. Here in the US, most states have similar guidelines which draw upon the latest innovations in hydrocarbon remediation.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.