CSIRO and industry partner, Ziltek, have developed an infrared hand-held detector that enables the rapid and cost-effective detection of contaminants in soil.

The challenge

Petroleum contamination of soils

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. 

Our scientists, in close collaboration with industry partner, Ziltek, have developed an innovative device with the ability to rapidly and accurately detect petroleum contamination on site, in real time, with the potential to deliver significant cost and time savings for industry.

Our response

Contaminant detection in real-time with RemScan

RemScan soil contamination detector in action  ©Ziltek

The device, RemScan, uses infrared signals to directly measure Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) in the soil, giving a result in around 20 seconds.

We were able to apply our significant experience in advanced analytical methods to detect contaminants in the soils, including new portable spectroscopic techniques for the rapid identification of a variety of soil properties. RemScan is an example of the commercial application of this expertise.

The technology can be used as a quick in-field screening tool to characterise contaminated sites, enabling the accurate quantitative measurement of diesel, oil and crude products in the soil or lighter fuels such as jet fuel and gasoline, to validate spill clean-up areas or to monitor ongoing contaminant degradation.

The ability to provide real-time measurements of soil contaminants on site will enable industry to close projects or declare sites contaminant-free with a higher degree of certainty, especially in remote areas where laboratory analysis is either not available or prohibitively expensive.  

Further, the immediacy of results has the potential to deliver significant savings to the environmental remediation industry annually in laboratory and project costs globally.

The results

Successful commercialisation and widespread adoption

RemScan was successfully commercialised in Australia by Ziltek in 2012, and has subsequently experienced wide adoption in the mining and oil and gas industries across various states.

Leveraging from the success of RemScan in Australia, Ziltek engaged the independent testing organisation in the United States, Batelle, to conduct a study to determine the accuracy and usability of the technology. 

The results of this study were published at the Ninth International Conference on Remediation of Chlorinated and Recalcitrant Compounds held in May 2014. Following this conference, Ziltek launched RemScan in the United States market and is shortly expected to commence production to meet the increasing international demand for the device.

CSIRO holds the recently accepted US patent for the RemScan method, which is licensed exclusively to Ziltek for global distribution.

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

Our scientists are continuing to work with Ziltek to extend the technology to enable the rapid detection of other soil contaminants.

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