The International Information Center for Geotechnical Engineers

Thermal Desorption - Cost

The cost of thermal desorption systems is highly variable. Depending on the site conditions, thermal desorption unit, and contractor, the cost could be anywhere from a few hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars for a given project. Table 3 illustrates the different costs for different thermal desorption technologies based on a per ton basis.

Table 3: Typical Cost Information (NFESC, 1998a)



It is important to note that Table 3 is only treatment cost. Treatment cost does not include all costs associated with planning, regulation, excavation, or restoration of the site, but purely the cost of running the thermal desorption unit. It can be expected that the values in Table 3 are about one third of the total costs associated with the restoration project as a whole (NFESC, 1998a).


These costs are a very rough estimate because the cost of thermal desorption is very dependent on moisture content, type of contaminants, concentration of contaminants, and quantity of treatable material. If the soil has more than 20% moisture content, dewatering is necessary, and the cost of the system as a whole will go up. Similarly, when the volatilization temperature or concentration of the contaminants goes up, the operating temperature and residence time will increase respectively.


Table 4:  Cost Comparison Data for Different Project Sizes (NFESC, 1998a)



Although total costs go up with quantity of material, the unit cost per ton of contaminated soil goes down as the quantity goes up. This phenomena is present for most remediation strategies, but especially so for thermal desorption. Therefore, the unit costs for large quantities of contaminated soil for thermal desorption are lower than competing strategies.


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