Remediation of soils contaminated with total petroleum hydrocarbons through soil washing with surfactant solutions

Environ Technol. 2023 Apr 26;1-14. doi: 10.1080/09593330.2023.2198733. Online ahead of print.


Soil fulfils vital functions for life on Earth and so, just like water and air, its protection from all sources of contamination is a major concern. However, the extensive use of petroleum derived products, either as energy sources or as commodities, leads to important environmental liabilities. Ex situ soil washing is a technology to concentrate contaminants, allowing soil cleaning and the reuse of extracted petroleum derived products. This work focuses on the optimization of ex situ soil washing process using surfactants, introducing an evaluation of the washing solution recycling and its after use safe disposal, promoting the reduction of raw materials, energy and water resources costs. Two surfactants, sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS) and polyoxyethylene sorbitan monooleate (Tween 80), were tested in the decontamination of an artificially contaminated soil with engine lubricant oil waste. The optimization of the washing conditions, such as stirring speed, liquid-solid ratio, number of washing stages, and surfactant concentration, was carried out using a design of experiments (DOE) software, so that the maximum extraction efficiency of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs) was achieved. A TPH removal efficiency of (80.7 ± 3.2)% was obtained with Tween 80 after 5 h of washing and (90.7 ± 2.8)% with SDS after 2 h at 200 rpm on an orbital shaker with a liquid to solid ratio (L/S) of 15. The potential for reuse of the washing solutions was evaluated. Finally, the discharge of the washing solution was considered using activated carbon to remove the surfactants and ensure its safe disposal.

Keywords: Optimization; Soil remediation; Soil washing; Surfactants; Total petroleum hydrocarbons.