STAR—Self-sustaining Treatment for Active Remediation—is a new organic contaminant remediation technology developed via collaboration between a soil/groundwater expert (Gerhard) and a combustion expert (Torero). Their research program was the first to demonstrate that a liquid fuel (coal tar) embedded in inert quartz sand could be smouldered (Pironi et al., 2009). ‘Self-sustaining smoldering’ is a highly controlled burning reaction – similar to charcoal in a BBQ. As a remediation technique, it destroys organic contaminants embedded in soil while simultaneously generating enough energy to propagate itself through the subsurface. As a result, it avoids the costs and risks of injection/extraction approaches (e.g., surfactant flushing, oxidation) and has the potential to be far less energy intensive (and therefore less costly to operate) than traditional thermal technologies. STAR has the potential to combine technical effectiveness, quick treatment, and substantial savings in operation and maintenance costs relative to currently available techniques.
STAR was introduced as a remediation approach with proof-of-concept experiments that demonstrated total organic contaminant destruction with no energy input after initiation (Switzer et al., 2009). The reaction was demonstrated to be robust across a wide range of coal tar and crude oil concentrations and the rate of destruction rate was demonstrated to be a function of the air injection rate (Pironi et al., 2011). Gerhard leads research team at University of Western Ontario for developing the technology (theory, bench scale experiments, field pilot tests, numerical modelling). This research is carried out within the RESTORE (Research for Subsurface Transport and Remediation Research) Group at Western. RESTORE includes approximately 25 HQP (highly qualified personnel – graduate and undergraduate students, and post-doctoral fellows), 4 research laboratories, 2 numerical modelling offices, and is supported by more than $4.5M in competitively awarded funding. STAR research is a collaborative effort involving University of Edinburgh, University of Strathclyde, and several industrial partners including Geosyntec Consultants Ltd.
STAR technology is being developed commercially by SiREM Labs.