Our research helped prepare the London 2012 Olympic Park by pioneering the detailed chemical examination of heavy-oil residues in the treatment of contaminated soils.

Key facts

    • Our research could save £3.2 - £12.4 million per year in restoring derelict land in the UK for development.
    • Our industrial partner utilised this research in testing contaminated land on the London 2012 Olympic Park.
    • A combined strategy of hazard and risk diagnosis helped to avoid unnecessary expenditure of public and private money.
  • Funded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which is funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), formerly known as BERR; and the Environment Agency.
An engineer checks the top membrane of bioengineered piles of contaminated soils.

Impact of our research

Our industrial partner ESG (Environmental Scientifics Group) Ltd used the research commercially for the contract testing at the 2012 Olympic Park in London. These are regarded as one of the greatest Games of all time and has had enormous regenerative benefits to that particular area of London in general.

We also developed decision-support tools for risk management and environmental rehabilitation of contaminated sites. The tools improve confidence in remediation (restoring to use) technology, reduce remediation costs and minimise waste disposal to landfill, with subsequent savings in CO2 emissions.

An illustrative soil sample collected at a chemical plant.

Why the research was commissioned

Soils contaminated with complex hydrocarbons (an organic compound consisting entirely of hydrogen and carbon) have important consequences for water resources and land use.

In collaboration with our industrial partner, EGS Ltd, we developed an innovative method for analysing petroleum hydrocarbons in soil. This approach meets the needs for risk assessment of contaminated land and provides important data for devising remediation strategies.

The research characterised what happens to contaminants in soil; a key requirement for estimating risks to human health and the environment. Detailed evaluation has also helped the appraisal of residual hydrocarbon levels that can be left safely at remediated sites without posing an unacceptable risk.

University of Aberdeen colleagues preparing (grinding and mixing) a contaminated soil for pilot trial remediation.

Why Cranfield?

Our work and reputation has contributed to environmental decision making, better regulation and risk policy by influencing the national consultation and regulatory guidance on the assessment of risks from hydrocarbon-contaminated soils for the (England and Wales) Environment Agency.

Facilities used

State-of-the-art environmental analytical laboratories for soil, sediment, water and air analysis.