Enviro-Klean Remediation Group Inc.

Application Guide for Thermal Desorption Systems


Systematic guidance information on various currently available thermal desorption systems is not readily available. The purpose of this Application Guide is to provide (1) technical information on, design and performance characteristics, cost, associated regulatory compliance issues, and contracting strategies for deploying thermal desorption systems, and (2) to establish a process for implementing thermal desorption technology at naval installations.

This guide is written primarily for technical personnel at naval engineering field divisions, public work centers and field activities and assumes that thermal desorption will be implemented primarily through a contract for services with a vendor who specializes in the installation and operation of thermal desorption systems for clean-up projects. This guide is intended to assist Remedial Project Managers (RPMs) and Project Engineers (PEs), who manage and execute environmental remediation projects at military facilities, by giving them knowledge and tools necessary in considering thermal desorption technologies for their projects.

The frequently debated definition of thermal desorption technology is that it is a two-step thermally induced physical separation process. It consists of one, applying heat to a contaminated material to vaporize contaminants into a gas stream, that two, is treated to meet regulatory requirements prior to discharge. Though most thermal desorption systems are applied to petroleum-contaminated sites, some are capable of handling contaminants ranging from highmolecular- weight polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and pesticides to chlorinated hydrocarbons, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). This treatment is accomplished by one of two types of thermal desorption. Low temperature thermal desorption systems heat contaminated material between 200 to 600°F while high temperature systems involve heating the material between 600 and 1,000°F. Different models of thermal desorption systems are available and thorough physical and chemical site investigations are required to select a system for a given application. Each system has unique design and performance characteristics that must be acknowledged prior to its implementation. As with every remediation technology, there are a number of significant factors to consider when estimating the cost to deploy a thermal desorption system. Yet, unlike some technologies, it is strongly recommended that remediation projects using thermal desorption technology be completed through turnkey contracting services. Many factors discussed in this guide outline why Navy ownership and leasing of thermal desorption systems is not recommended.

There are many hurdles that would confront an RPM during the Remedial Action Process of a thermal desorption project, only one of which is regulatory compliance. Though not as numerous as for incineration, there are a number of federal, state, and local regulatory compliance issues that govern the use of thermal desorption. However, helpful case studies of projects that have applied thermal desorption technology, at Naval Station Mayport Jacksonville, Florida and the American Thermostat Site of South Cairo, New York, have provided key lessons for executing a project successfully.

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