Why Data Management is the Most Underrated Aspect of Thermal Remediation Operations

There are those who think data management sounds boring.  What could be less stimulating than numbers in columns and rows?  But to anyone who needs to know exactly what is going on in the soil, these data are about the most interesting and exciting news around.  No, I’m not saying that us soil nerds are easily amused, I’m saying that those process numbers and field data reveal trends that tell a detailed story and provide actionable information that may streamline the path to completion.  When it comes to optimizing a thermal remediation project, data management, along with a lot of experience and intuition, is the star.

Managing and analyzing the operational data collected during a thermal treatment is an essential tool for a successful thermal treatment outcome.  Collected field data helps inform operational changes that can optimize the heat-up process.  It also provides continuous feedback as to whether volatilized mass is being captured, the project is on track, and the treatment goals are being met.

So, now that you know why this data is so exciting, you might ask, “What is the most exciting data of all to a Thermal nerd?” Soil temperatures and energy injection rates are key parameters.  Data related to the operations of the above grade treatment system also help us ensure that the extracted chemicals are properly treated prior to discharge of extracted vapors and liquids.  This, in turn, helps us minimize the wear and tear on the project equipment.

And it’s not just the team at TerraTherm, our clients have also discovered the joy of data watching.  As we have executed more than 50 projects, some clients have asked for up-to-date progress data on a real-time basis.  To satisfy this demand, we have developed “Thermal Insight”, a project portal that delivers up-to-date information on a variety of key variables.  Data including site energy balances, mass removal estimates, extraction rates, utility usage numbers, documentation for hydraulic and pneumatic control, and other project specific information are securely made available to the client or regulators.  Since no two sites are the same, the project specific data portal can be fully customized to fit the project.

TerraTherm Data Portal

The project specific webpage Thermal Insight, keeps project engineers, operators and clients up to date on project progress.

We utilize a real-time online system to collect temperatures across the wellfield – from the soil as well as from the extracted fluids at the extraction points.  Temperature data are then shared on the project-specific webpage using an interactive, user-friendly data plotter, which allows our engineers as well as the clients to track and analyze the heat-up.  A few clicks on this site’s wellfield map and you know what the temperature is at the site and how the heat-up has progressed since startup.  The temperature monitoring system also reports any temperatures exceeding expected values to identify unwanted heat migration towards utility lines, buildings, and outside the treatment.  This early warning system allows timely operational changes to prevent any potential issues.

In Situ Thermal Desorption - Temperature Plotter

The temperature and data plotter found on the project webpage reveals real-time project data.

Our operators capture wellfield and manual process data daily using hand-held computers to minimize data entry errors.  The data are then quality controlled and transferred to the project database, making even manually gathered data available to the project team just a few hours after collection.

Since thermal projects are intense and operate for a relatively short time compared to other in-situ remediation methods, we closely monitor the data collected and swiftly adjust operations based on what we see.  The key is to have the right data available at the right time in order to make the wisest operational decisions.  The data are key to saving time, headaches, energy, and last but not least – money.

So, the next time you’re looking for something interesting and fun to do with your free time, get in touch with your local TerraTherm team member.  He or she may be able to show you the nerdy joys of data management, and you’ll never see columns of numbers the same way again!

About Steffen Griepke

Steffen is involved in the front end designs at TerraTherm. He is responsible for the subsurface designs, including the numerical steam and TCH modeling conducted in the early design phase of our projects. In addition, he leads up TerraTherm´s data management efforts, and develops tools and systems allowing real time client access for operational data during operation of our thermal projects. Steffen has been a member of TerraTherm’s team since 2008.
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