A thermal barrier is disclosed for surface confinement with active cooling to control subsurface pressures during thermal remediation of shallow (5-20 feet) underground contaminants. If steam injection is used for underground heating, the actively cooled thermal barrier allows the steam to be injected into soil at pressures much higher (20-60 psi) than the confining strength of the soil, while preventing steam breakthrough. The rising steam is condensed to liquid water at the thermal barrier-ground surface interface. The rapid temperature drop forced by the thermal barrier drops the subsurface pressure to below atmospheric pressure. The steam and contaminant vapors are contained by the thermal blanket, which can be made of a variety of materials such as steel plates, concrete slabs, membranes, fabric bags, or rubber bladders.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.