Title:
Device for treating the soil in the vicinity of buried structures
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A device for treating the ground in the vicinity of buried structures, comprises a plurality of probes which are driven into the subsoil and are connected to a control unit provided with an air generating device for generating, within the ground, a flow of dry air. The probes are arranged so as to make the generated air flow lap all the surfaces of the buried structures.



Inventors:
Pizzorni, Domenico (Genova, IT)
Prandi, Alberto (Mantova, IT)
Application Number:
09/738347
Publication Date:
06/07/2001
Filing Date:
12/18/2000
Assignee:
PIZZORNI DOMENICO
PRANDI ALBERTO
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
405/129.5
International Classes:
B09C1/00; G01M3/22; (IPC1-7): E02D31/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
LEE, JONG SUK
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MODIANO & ASSOCIATI (Via Meravigli, 16, 20123 MILANO, null, null, IT)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A device for treating the ground in the vicinity of buried structures, comprising: a plurality of probes which are driven into the ground at selected locations with respect to outer surfaces of said buried structures; a control unit provided with means for generating, within the ground, a flow of dry air, said probes being connected to said control unit and arranged so as to make the generated air flow lap all the outer surfaces of said buried structures, wherein said plurality of probes is divided into two sets: a first set of probes for injecting the air flow from one side of said buried structures and a second set of probes for extracting the injected air flow from another side of said buried structures, said second set of extraction probes being connected to said control unit with at least one line, said line comprising detecting means for detecting characteristics of the extracted air flow, in order to perform an in-line continuous and real time leak detection for the buried structures, in order to simultaneously perform soil pollution prevention, soil remediation and corrosion prevention, heating means being provided in order to heat atmospheric air adapted to reduce the relative humidity of the air.

2. The device of claim 1, wherein said at least one line for connecting the control unit to the extraction probes comprises analyzing means for analyzing the composition of the air flow.

3. The device of claim 1, wherein said at least one line for connecting the control unit to the extraction probes comprises detection means for detecting the temperature of the air flow.

4. The device of claim 1, wherein said at least one line for connecting the control unit to the extraction probes comprises detection means for detecting humidity of the air flow, in order to maintain said humidity below the dewpoint.

5. The device of claim 1, wherein said first set of probes for injecting the air flow is connected to the control unit through at least one injection line, said injection line including injection means for introducing into the ground liquid and/or vapour substances, said substances being selectable from a group consisting of tracers and nutrient liquids.

6. The device of claim 1, wherein the buried structure is a tank, and said injection probes are driven into the ground in a position that lies above or below said tank and said extraction probes for removing the injected air flow generated by the injection probes is driven into the ground in a position located below or above said tank.

7. The device of claim 1, wherein each probe of said plurality of probes comprises: an outer tubular jacket, having a wall defining an inner surface thereof and provided with through holes therealong; a tubular core, which has a solid wall and is shorter than said outer jacket, said core being sliding fit with said inner surface of said outer jacket; and engagement means provided at said core for placing the core in any desired position within said outer jacket.

8. The device of claim 7, wherein said tubular core of each of said probes is associated with the inner surface of the perforated jacket with a fit which allows tight-fit sliding following an action applied thereon at said engagement means.

9. The device of claim 7, wherein a plug is provided for closing said tubular core of said probes at a lower end thereof.

10. The device of claim 5, wherein each of said injection and extraction probes is provided with an valve adapted to connect/disconnect each of said injection probes to/from said at least one injection line and each of said extraction probes to said at least one line.

Description:

[0001] This is a Continuation-in-Part of prior U.S. Ser. No. 08/982,375 filed on Dec. 2, 1997

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The present invention relates to a device for treating the soil in the vicinity of buried structures.

[0003] The wide range of problems that occur due to the presence of structures underground, particularly tanks and pipelines, is known.

[0004] In the case of tanks for containing pollutants, there is the danger of corrosion of the walls of the tanks, with the consequent leakage of the substances in the neighboring soil; measures such as cathodic protection or the sheathing of the walls with substances such as fiberglass-reinforced plastics have accordingly been proposed.

[0005] These measures, however, entail high costs and are also often questionably effective.

[0006] The requirement of avoiding subsoil pollution also causes the need to install systems for detecting any leakage from tanks and lines; for this purpose, either installation is performed of probes constituted, in the prior art, by slotted tubes which are driven into the ground and by means of which the gas contained in the subsoil is extracted in order to analyze it, or micrometric indicators are inserted in the tanks which detect any decrease in the level of the contained liquid.

[0007] Various systems, mainly based on the injection of air, which is suitable to facilitate biodegradation of pollutants, into the subsoil by means of probes, are also currently known for reclaiming polluted soils.

[0008] It is evident that the current situation is characterized by independent and different approaches to the different problems, with high costs and anything but ideal functional effectiveness.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The aim of the present invention is to provide a device for treating the soil in the vicinity of buried structures which allows a global action that seeks to solve all the problems posed, consequently reducing costs and improving the results obtained.

[0010] Within the scope of this aim, an object of the present invention is to provide a probe which, once driven into the ground, allows variations in its operating characteristics.

[0011] This aim, this object and others which will become apparent hereinafter are achieved by a device for treating the soil in the vicinity of buried structures, according to the present invention, characterized in that it comprises a plurality of probes which are buried in the subsoil and are connected to a control unit provided with means for generating, in the soil, a flow of dry air, said probes being arranged so that the flow that they generate laps all the surfaces of said buried structures.

[0012] Advantageously, means are provided for heating the dry air and the probes are furthermore divided into an injection set and an extraction set, the extraction set being connected to the control unit with at least one line which comprises at least means for detecting characteristics of the flow.

[0013] According to the present invention, a probe also comprises an outer tubular jacket, provided with through holes at its entire wall, and a tubular core, which has a solid wall and is shorter than the outer jacket; said core is associated in contact with the inner surface of said jacket and is provided with means which allow to arrange it in any position.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] Further characteristics and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of a preferred but not exclusive embodiment thereof, illustrated only by way of non-limitative example in the accompanying drawings, wherein:

[0015] FIG. 1 is a view of an application of the device to the treatment of the soil in the vicinity of a buried tank;

[0016] FIG. 2 is a partially sectional view of a probe;

[0017] FIGS. 3 and 4 are views of two different operating conditions that can be provided with probes according to the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0018] With reference to FIG. 1, the reference numeral 1 designates a tank which is meant to contain a pollutant, such as for example gasoline, and the reference numerals 2, 3 and 4 designate conventional probes which are driven into the subsoil above the tank in order to inject air, which is fed by means of a line 5 through the action of a compressor 6.

[0019] The compressor is in turn supplied with atmospheric air, aspirated through a filter 7 and passed through a drying device 8, which reduces the relative humidity of said air to an optimum value.

[0020] The reference numerals 9 and 10 further designate two extraction probes, also of a known kind, which are open only at end portions 9a, 10a located at a level lying below the tank 1, and are shielded in an upward region; the extraction probes are connected to a line 11, which leads into the atmosphere at 12 and is provided with an offtake 13, which conveys the extracted flow to devices for analyzing the composition of the flow and to devices for detecting the temperature and relative humidity of said flow, which are contained in a box 14 comprised within a building 15 that accommodates the described multipurpose control unit.

[0021] The control unit is completed by a line 16 for mutually connecting the air injection and extraction lines, and there are valves 17, 18 and 19 which allow to cut out the line or to convey along said line the flow extracted by the probes 9 and 10 in order to return it into the soil.

[0022] It is immediately evident that the present invention operates effectively from many points of view which will be set forth.

[0023] The dried air flow, indicated by the arrows in 1, strikes the walls of the tank and dehumidifies the soil in the vicinity of said tank, thus preserving it from corrosion; it also keeps the soil ventilated enough to maintain the activity of the biological processes that degrade any pollutants present due to leaks or dumping.

[0024] The aspiration of the flow on the part of the probes 9 and 10 also allows to analyze the flow so as to continuously monitor the state of the treated soil: it is noted, by way of example, that a recording performed by the instruments in the box 14 of a decrease in relative humidity, combined with an increase in the temperature of the air flow after a first period of operation, is assuredly an indicator of a correct development of the flow in the soil that lies around the tank 1 and accordingly of good efficiency in the anticorrosion treatment of the tank and in the reclamation of the soil.

[0025] This recording can therefore be followed by a certification of the adequacy of the treatments.

[0026] The monitoring of the state of the soil that can be performed with the device according to the present invention further allows, again by way of example, to record in real time the occurrence of a leak of pollutant, detected by the analyzers in the box 14, and to control the development of the subsequent reclamation treatment.

[0027] What has been described above with reference to a tank also applies, of course, to any buried structure and particularly in the case of pipelines that convey pollutants.

[0028] The above description clearly shows the high efficiency of the present invention, which combines the ability to perform a plurality of functions which are currently assigned to different devices: anticorrosion treatment of the buried structures, soil monitoring and reclamation of the soil.

[0029] The multifunctional nature of the device does not negatively affect the effectiveness of any of the operations it performs; on the contrary, a synergistic effect among the operations is observed which completes their optimization.

[0030] It should also be noted that substances, such as tracers suitable to be detected by the analyzers of the extracted flow, or nutrients suitable to facilitate biodegradation of the pollutants, can be introduced in the air injected into the subsoil.

[0031] Attention is drawn, within the framework of high functional efficiency that has been described, to the low installation cost of the invention, especially if the installation is performed during the installation of the structures to be protected, and to the low cost both in terms of labor and energy consumption.

[0032] The position of the injections and extraction probes may as well be exchanged without altering the inventive concept of the invention. Thus, the injection probes may be arranged below the tank and the extraction probes may be arranged above the tank.

[0033] As an alternative, the injection probes may be arranged at each side of the tank, as illustrated in detail in FIGS. 3 and 4, as well as in FIG. 1 in dashed lines.

[0034] The injection probes 2-4 may be exchanged in operation with the aspiration probes 9, 10.

[0035] As a further alternative, the probes may be arranges so that, as illustrated in FIGS. 3,4, the probes arranged on one side of the tank are only one type of probes, and the probes arranges at the opposite side are the other type of probes. In this way the injection probes and the extraction probes are arranged one opposite the other with respect to the tank.

[0036] Each of the probes 2, 4 and 9, 10 is provided with an valve 30 which is adapted to put the probe in connection with the line 5 or the line 11, according to the involved probe.

[0037] This allows a selective activation of each probe 2-4 and 9,10 and also allows detection of leaks at particular regions of the tank at a time, with the advantage of being able to more precisely locate the leak.

[0038] The compressor 6 is used to inject the air in the injection probes 2-4 and the same compressor is used to let the probes 9, 10 aspirate the flow. In fact, through line 16 the air flow aspirated by the extraction probes is sent to the drying device 8 and then to the compressor 6: a closed circuit is thus formed when the valves 18, 19 are open and the valve 17 is closes.

[0039] In addition, the injections probes may inject liquid substances and/or vapour substances.

[0040] Still further, the dehumidification function performed by the heating means has also the purpose of increasing the efficiency of the other functions performed by the device, since the reduction of the humidity content of the soil increases the air permeability of the soil.

[0041] Attention is now drawn to the probes driven into the ground, which in the known embodiment, adopted for example in the probes 9 and 10, which are constituted very simply by a slotted tube, have the disadvantageous characteristic that they allow no operating flexibility since their configuration cannot change at all.

[0042] A probe according to the present invention, which once driven into the ground allows variations to its operating characteristics, is illustrated in FIG. 2.

[0043] With reference to the above figure, the reference numeral 20 designates an outer tubular jacket, which is provided, at its entire wall, with through holes such as 21, 22 and is shaped, at the end meant to be arranged inside a manhole, as a spigot joint 23, which allows connection to a fluid conveyance line.

[0044] The part now described relates substantially to a conventional probe.

[0045] An important characteristic of the present invention is the presence of a tubular core 24, which has a not holed, solid wall and is shorter than the jacket 20.

[0046] The core 24 is sliding fit with the inner surface of the jacket 20, with a fit which allows tight-fit sliding as a consequence of an action applied by an operator to engagement means, such as an upward traction or a downward thrust applied by means of a rod which is in contact with a bar 25 fixed to the upper end of the core; through the friction that occurs between the mutually contacting surfaces of the jacket and the core, the core remains locked in any position in which it is placed.

[0047] The core has, at its lower end, a threaded portion 26 for fixing a closure plug, which can be useful if it is necessary for example to isolate the upper part of the probe from the lower part, which is placed in a waterlogged region.

[0048] FIGS. 3 and 4 illustrate the operating flexibility of the present invention in the case of probes 27 and 28 arranged proximate to a buried tank 29 in order to inject air into the ground in the vicinity of the tank, with the dual purpose of keeping said ground ventilated and dehumidified, so as to preserve the metal plates from corrosion, and of continuously monitoring the condition of the soil.

[0049] The adoption of probes according to the invention allows to change, very quickly and conveniently, the flow of air in the ground between the injection probe 27 and the extraction probe 28 from the situation shown in FIG. 3 to the one shown in FIG. 4.

[0050] In the case of FIG. 3, the flow is determined by placing, in both probes, the corresponding cores in the uppermost position, so that the holes in the jacket that are located in the lower region remain open; in order to change to the circulation shown in FIG. 4 it is sufficient to push down the core of the probe 27, thus freeing the holes of the upper region of the jacket, while the position of the core of the probe 28 remains unchanged.

[0051] The combinations that can be provided by placing the core of the probes in different positions, including intermediate ones, are obviously numberless, thus allowing specific choices as a function of the morphology of the ground affected by the treatment; this fact can be important also in view of optimizing the conditions for injecting into the soil substances, such as water or nutrient liquids, added to the air.

[0052] The described invention is susceptible of numerous modifications and variations, all of which are within the scope of the inventive concept.

[0053] Thus, for example, it is possible to heat the input air in order to increase the effectiveness of the treatment and reduce, in the case of fuel tanks, the thermal storage loss; in particular, the heating action can be controlled by means of a thermostat, so as to assuredly obtain air at a higher temperature than the ground.

[0054] This additional condition causes the above-described flow generation method to be particularly effective.

[0055] The tubular core of the probe according to the present invention can also be provided with means of any kind to allow it to move inside the jacket and to place it in the intended position.

[0056] In the practical embodiment of the invention, all the details may be replaced with other technically equivalent elements; the materials employed, as well as the shapes and the dimensions, may also be any according to requirements.