High Resolution Site Characterization: From Humble Beginnings to Where we are Today!

High Resolution Site Characterization: From Humble Beginnings to Where we are Today!

by Patrick O’Neill

About six years ago I began working with some innovative tools that profile subsurface conditions in real time.  While a lot of people are aware of these technologies and their main functions, whether it is profiling LNAPL impacts (LIF), dissolved phase impacts (MIP) or subsurface permeability (HPT), and now everyone is familiar with Electrical Conductivity (EC), I wanted to recount the fledgling beginnings of Vertex’s High Resolution Site Characterization (HRSC) services to where we are now and what the future might hold?!

I wanted to start out with what launched this awesome journey in the first place, and that was a general interest in improving Vertex’s and its clients’ understanding of the subsurface and developing the ability to fill in data gaps that may exist on their impacted Sites.  After some research we decided to invest in two tools, the LIF and MIP technologies, which seemed like the appropriate first steps into this domain.  While training was both fun and extensive, it was well worth the time required to learn and utilize these tools and introduce them to Canada full time.

After training was completed we were able to get out into the field and deploy these tools in early 2011.  After some humbling missteps and some challenging geology encountered in Ontario, Vertex was able to learn and adjust to successfully deploying these tools in our northern geology.

Total Meters profiled by Vertex from 2011 to 2016

Figure 1: Total Meters profiled by Vertex from 2011 to 2016

In the beginning there were some definite growing pains in trying to introduce these new technologies to the Canadian market and we thank everyone who hired us early on to profile their sites and help them fill the data gaps!  Over six years later, Vertex has been able to characterize for over 46 kms of subsurface (with many more being completed in 2017)!  Now that doesn’t sound terribly long when you think horizontally, however flip it 90 degrees and think vertically and here is how that compares;

  • CN Tower – 457 m
  • The Burj Khalifa – 829.8 m
  • Mount Olympus (Earth) – 2.4 km
  • Jungfrau – 4.2 km (Been there, done that, sent a postcard)
  • Mount Logan – 5.9 km (Highest in Canada)
  • Mount Everest – 8.8 km (Highest in the world)
  • Mount Olympus (Mars) – 22 km (Highest in the Solar System)

So in comparison, in six years of HRSC probing we have been able to drill the equivalent of Mount Everest over 5 times over!  I think that’s really cool myself.

Over that time we have expanded our services in HRSC with the addition of the HPT and now the Low Level Membrane Interface Probe (LLMIP)!  The LLMIP does just what it’s advertised to do, lower level detection limits vs traditional MIP.  Vertex has also recently brought the TarGOST up from the United States to complete an extensive dual LIF (UVOST/TarGOST) program for a major land redevelopment project.

Not only has our HRSC toolbox expanded but our deliverables and data processing abilities have advanced considerably too!  When we first started with the HRSC tools it was relatively basic, and admittedly the analysis and deliverables reflected that.  In the beginning Vertex utilized the software provided with the tools and some basic write ups to help explain the data that was just collected.  Today Vertex utilizes a much more powerful host of software packages that have been updated for each of the tools AND for visualization of the data in 3D, including animations!  Vertex has heavily invested in this technology and I believe the results are not only stunning but very useful in translating the data collected to the real world.  The ability to visualize these massive data sets in 3D is quite powerful for clients!

LIF Data visualized in 3D

Figure 2: LIF Data visualized in 3D

When we started this endeavor we never imagined how much it would take hold here in Canada but we are very glad is has been welcomed into the industry and look forward to helping our clients understand many more sites in the future!