The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Thermal Desorption - Disadvantages

Requires Excavation

One major disadvantage of thermal desorption is that it requires the soil to be excavated. This tends to increase costs compared to in-situ treatment strategies. Excavation also restricts the easily accessible depth of treatment to about 25 feet below ground level, the reach of a standard crane (EPA, 2001).


Footprint or Transportation

For onsite thermal desorption systems, a large land area or “footprint” is often required. This footprint is not only due to the system itself, but if the soil is not immediately being replaced, land will need to be allocated for soil storage. If an onsite unit is not feasible, the other alternative is an offsite system. Instead of requiring a large footprint, transportation costs are needed to transport the contaminated soil to the treatment site, and to transport processed soil back to the site.



Because thermal desorption requires specific soil conditions, the contaminated soil may need to be processed before entering the thermal desorption system. Examples of these pretreatment possibilities include soil shearing if the soil is agglomerated, screening or crushing if the soil has large particles, and dewatering if the soil has above 20% moisture content.


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