דוקטורנטים מספרים - Ran Pelta
Using cutting edge technology to detect crude oil pollution in soil
Supervisor: Prof. Eyal Ben-Dor
Crude oil pollution is a global problem that can be hazardous to humans and has negative effects on the natural environment. It affects the structure and functioning of terrestrial and maritime ecosystems, shifting their equilibrium, and diminishing biodiversity as it causes high mortality among flora and fauna. Petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) are compounds found in crude oil comprised of carbon and hydrogen bonds. The vast production rate of 100 million barrels of crude oil per day (2019) and the widespread use of PHC for transportation, heating, and industry has led to a release of PHC products into the environment. This happens through accidental spills, long-term leakage, or operational failures. Consequently, PHC contamination and its effects can be found worldwide in various ecosystems such as coastal regions, oceans, river deltas, marshes, rainforests, wetlands, and more. The presence of PHC in the environment gives rise to vegetation stress and geochemical alterations in soils and rocks which manifest themselves in the electromagnetic spectrum (EM).
Traditional methods for investigating the presence of PHC, such as drilling and geochemical analysis, are time-consuming, destructive, and expensive since they require extensive field sampling and laboratory analysis. Remote sensing offers an efficient and non-destructive method of characterizing oil spills and their environmental impacts. Remote sensing is the science of detecting and recording the reflected or emitted radiation caused by the interaction between EM radiation and substances and relating it to a chemical or physical property. Images obtained from remote sensing platforms can be analysed and processed into thematic maps to illustrate field conditions. This approach does not require in-situ operation and can be performed entirely from air or space, making it especially suitable for research in areas that are difficult to access or restricted in a spatially continuous fashion. Remote sensing technologies are currently experiencing a technical revolution with the rapid development in sensor design.
In my study, I use remote sensing instruments such as sophisticated cameras and sensors which are considered cutting edge technology to obtain spectra of soil contaminated with crude oil. Next, I apply various statistical and mathematical calculations to derive information regarding the pollution. Based on this knowledge, I then construct a model to predict contamination levels of newly collected samples. The methods and models I have developed can serve as monitoring tools that are also valuable to environmental protection and resource management programs. This could assist decision-makers regarding precautionary actions that should be taken in real time.