A new handheld soil contamination detector developed by CSIRO Industrial Research Services and industry partner Ziltek has been launched in the US market.

The new detector, RemScan reduces the cost as well as time taken to remediate sites contaminated by petroleum products using an infrared signal to directly measure petroleum hydrocarbons in the soil, and providing a result in about 20 seconds.

Petroleum contamination as a result of leaking tanks or industrial spills is a widespread global issue with potentially serious impacts for human and environmental health.

With its ability to rapidly and accurately detect petroleum contamination on site, RemScan eliminates the need to send soil samples to a laboratory and wait for several days for results, enabling industry to close projects or declare sites contaminant-free, faster and with a greater degree of certainty.

The soil contamination technology in the detector has the potential to save the environmental remediation industry millions of dollars per year in laboratory and project costs globally.

RemScan soil contamination detectors can be used as a quick in-field screening tool to characterise contaminated sites, validate spill clean-up areas, or monitor ongoing contaminant degradation. The technology is particularly useful for the quantitative measurement of diesel, oil and crude products in soil, but can also be used as a screening tool for lighter fuels such as jet fuel and gasoline. RemScan demonstrates its true value as a quick, easy to use and accurate instrument especially in remote areas, where laboratory analysis is either not available or is prohibitively expensive.

Successfully commercialised in Australia by Ziltek in 2012, RemScan is now in use by the mining industry and the oil and gas industries in various Australian states. CSIRO holds the recently accepted US patent for the RemScan method, which is licensed exclusively to Ziltek for global distribution.

CSIRO has significant expertise in advanced analytical methods to detect contaminants in soils, including new portable spectroscopic techniques for the rapid identification of a variety of soil properties. RemScan is one example of the commercial application of this expertise.

CSIRO’s Professor Mike McLaughlin explains that CSIRO has enabled the use of infrared spectroscopy for rapid non-destructive prediction of contaminants in soils and soil properties using both near- and mid-infrared spectral regions.

Apart from oil detection, CSIRO continues to work with Ziltek to extend the technology to enable rapid detection of other soil contaminants.

Development of RemScan was supported through the HazWaste Fund (EPA Victoria), Bio Innovation SA and the Australian Government through Commercialisation Australia and Enterprise Connect.