Crude oil in a shallow sand and gravel aquifer-III. Biogeochemical reactions and mass balance modeling in anoxic groundwater

Mary Jo Baedecker, Isabelle M. Cozzarelli, Robert P. Eganhouse, Donald I. Siegel, Philip C. Bennett

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284 Scopus citations


Crude oil floating on the water table in a sand and gravel aquifer provides a constant source of hydrocarbons to the groundwater at a site near Bemidji, Minnesota. The degradation of hydrocarbons affects the concentrations of oxidized and reduced aqueous species in the anoxic part of the contaminant plume that developed downgradient from the oil body. The concentrations of Fe2+, Mn2+ and CH4, Eh measurements, and the δ13C ratios of the total inorganic C indicate that the plume became more reducing ver a 5-a period. However, the size of the contaminant plume remained stable during this time. Field data coupled with laboratory microcosm experiments indicate that benzene and the alkylbenzenes are degraded in an anoxic environment. In anaerobic microcosm experiments conducted under field conditions, almost complete degradation (98%) was observed for benzene in 125 d and for toluene in 45 d. Concentrations of aqueous Fe2+ and Mn2+ increased in these experiments, indicating that the primary reactions were hydrocarbon degradation coupled with Fe and Mn reduction. Mass transfer calculations on a 40-m flowpath in the anoxic zone, downgradient from the oil body, indicated that the primary reactions in the anoxic zone are oxidation of organic compounds, precipitation of siderite and a ferroan calcite, dissolution of iron oxide and outgassing of CH4 and CO2. The major difference in the two models presented is the ratio of CO2 and CH4 that outgasses. Both models indicate quantitatively that large amounts of Fe are dissolved and reprecipitated as ferrous iron in the anoxic zone of the contaminant plume.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-586
Number of pages18
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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