Evaluation of permeable reactive barrier (PRB) integrity using electrical imaging methods

Lee Slater, Andrew Binley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The permeable reactive barrier (PRB) is a promising in-situ technology for treatment of hydrocarbon-contaminated groundwater. A PRB is typically composed of granular iron which degrades chlorinated organics into potentially nontoxic dehalogenated organic compounds and inorganic chloride. Geophysical methods may assist assessment of in-situ barrier integrity and evaluation of long-term barrier performance. The highly conductive granular iron makes the PRB an excellent target for conductivity imaging methods. In addition, electrochemical storage of charge at the iron-solution interface generates an impedance that decreases with frequency. The PRB is thus a potential induced polarization (IP) target. Surface and cross-borehole electrical imaging (conductivity and IP) was conducted at a PRB installed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Kansas City plant. Poor signal strength (25% of measure-ments exceeding 8% reciprocal error) and insensitivity at depth, which results from current channeling in the highly conductive iron, limited surface imaging. Cross-hole 2D and 3D electrical measurements were highly effective at defining an accurate, approximately 0.3-m resolution, cross-sectional image of the barrier in-situ. Both the conductivity and IP images reveal the barrier geometry. Crosshole images obtained for seven panels along the barrier suggest variability in iron emplacement along the installation. On five panels the PRB structure is imaged as a conductive feature exceeding 1 S/m. However, on two panels the conductivity in the assumed vicinity of the PRB is less than 1 S/m. The images also suggest variability in the integrity of the contact between the PRB and bedrock. This noninvasive, in-situ evaluation of barrier geometry using conductivity/IP has broad implications for the long-term monitoring of PRB performance as a method of hydrocarbon removal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)911-921
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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