We evaluated tools and methods for in situ freezing of cores in unconsolidated subsurface media. Our approach, referred to as cryogenic core collection (C3), has key aspects that include downhole circulation of liquid nitrogen (LN) via a cooling system, strategic use of thermal insulation to focus cooling into the core, and controlling LN back pressure to optimize cooling. Two cooling systems (copper coil and dual-wall cylinder) are described. For both systems, the time to freeze a single 2.5-foot (76-cm) long by 2.5-inch (63-mm) diameter core is 5 to 7 min. Frozen core collection rates of about 30 feet/day (10 m/day) were achieved at two field sites, one impacted by petroleum-based light nonaqueous phase liquids (LNAPLs) and the other by chlorinated solvents. Merits of C3 include (1) improved core recovery, (2) potential control of flowing sand, and (3) improved preservation of critical sediment attributes. Development of the C3 method creates novel opportunities to characterize sediment with respect to physical, chemical, and biological properties. For example, we were able to resolve water, LNAPL, and gas saturations above and below the water table. By eliminating drainage of water, gas and LNAPL saturations in the range of 6 to 23% and 1 to 3% of pore space, respectively, were measured in LNAPL-impacted intervals below the water table.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Civil and Structural Engineering
- Water Science and Technology