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Geologic and Environmental Probe System


Idaho National Laboratory

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PDF Document PublicationTechnology Fact Sheet (144 KB)

Installing an instrument in the probe casing is safe and easy.
Installing an instrument in the probe casing is safe and easy.

Technology Marketing Summary

Migration of contaminants from buried waste sites can be a threat to the safety of groundwater resources.  Ideally, migration of contaminants would be detected as close as possible to the source, minimizing aquifer impact and cleanup costs.  However, monitoring within or beneath waste sites is generally avoided due to the resulting surface contamination created during insertion of traditional monitoring devices.  Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls, have developed the Geologic and Environmental Probe System (GEOPS) to address this problem.  The GEOPS structure allows for direct characterization and monitoring within or below hazardous waste sites.  This R&D 100 Award winning system has potential to reduce environmental impact and remediation costs by detecting contamination movement before it reaches groundwater aquifers.  The system also provides several potential cost advantages over traditional probe structures used for subterranean monitoring in non-contaminated areas.


The Geologic and Environmental Probe System is a structure that is placed directly into an area of interest at a desired depth.  The system provides a platform for later installation, operation, and removal of subsurface instruments and related equipment for sampling and data gathering functions.  GEOPS is structurally designed to withstand the large forces required for probe installation.  The platform design can be advanced through hardened sediments and difficult debris (i.e., steel drums and other hardened materials) using conventional direct-push, sonic, and rotary drilling techniques, without bringing drill cuttings to the ground surface.  GEOPS incorporates a seal system designed to prevent downhole contamination from reaching the surface.  This feature makes GEOPS attractive for installation into and below areas known to harbor hazardous waste.

When GEOPS reaches the desired depth, it is able to accept a variety of conventional subsurface instruments to characterize conditions and retrieve samples from the site.  Since the subsurface instruments are inserted after installation of the GEOPS structure, they are not subject to large and potentially damaging installation forces.  Proper function and reliability of the instruments can be verified prior to down-hole insertion.  Where traditional monitoring techniques require installation of an individual probe for each instrument, GEOPS has potential to create substantial cost savings by allowing for insertion of multiple instruments into the same probe structure.   Costs associated with replacing or repairing malfunctioning measurement devices are also significantly reduced since instruments can be easily removed from the GEOPS structure.

  1. GEOPS is structurally capable of being placed into a wide variety of locations without prior excavation or ground preparation. This feature allows for potential cost and time savings by avoiding prior excavation and other ground preparation techniques. GEOPS is especially suited for installation in contaminated sites where excavation could result in expensive containment measures.
  2. GEOPS comprises a platform for the installation, operation, and removal of subsurface instruments and equipment to obtain earth samples and collect data.
  3. Subsurface instruments and equipment may be positioned (or even locked) at different elevations within the probe system structure.
  4. GEOPS provides the ability to retrieve by hand, inspect, repair, or replace faulty subsurface instruments and equipment without a drill rig, additional excavation, drilling, or fear of contamination spread.
  5. Multiple instruments and instrument types may be used within the GEOPS probe structure simultaneously resulting in significant cost savings over the traditional one instrument per probe approach.
  6. GEOPS incorporates a seal system which provides a contamination barrier between the surrounding medium and the inner probe structure. The seal system provides containment during ground installation and during instrument insertion, operation, and retrieval.  The seal system is adaptable for use with filter media of varying pore sizes.
Applications and Industries

GEOPS has promise to be a cost effective alternative to existing subsurface monitoring technologies.  The system could likely be placed in any sedimentary geologic material such as mine tailings, dams, as well as contaminated sites such as landfills or industrial areas.  GEOPS can be used in a variety of scenarios where minimal prior ground preparation is desired. GEOPS is suited for use by both large and small communities for water quality monitoring since it is low cost and very versatile.

Industries that may benefit from GEOPS include environmental monitoring, environmental remediation, groundwater modeling, subsurface exploration, and mining.

Patents and Patent Applications
ID Number
Title and Abstract
Primary Lab
Patent 7,311,011
Apparatuses for interaction with a subterranean formation, and methods of use thereof
An access casing assembly structured for placement at least partially within a subterranean formation by forcing the access casing assembly thereinto, comprising a plurality of casing sections operably coupled to form a central elongated cavity for providing access to the subterranean region is disclosed. Further, a tip portion of the access casing assembly may include a porous filter through which liquid or gas may communicate with the central elongated cavity. Also, a receiving member or at least one engagement hub may form a portion of the central elongated cavity and may include an engagement feature configured for selectively and lockingly engaging a locking structure of a device to be positioned within the access casing assembly. Methods of use are disclosed. A tensiometer is disclosed including a chamber structured for allowing at least partially filling with a fluid subsequent to contact therewith.
Idaho National Laboratory 12/25/2007
Patent 7,431,348
Subsurface drill string
A drill string comprises a first drill string member having a male end; and a second drill string member having a female end configured to be joined to the male end of the first drill string member, the male end having a threaded portion including generally square threads, the male end having a non-threaded extension portion coaxial with the threaded portion, and the male end further having a bearing surface, the female end having a female threaded portion having corresponding female threads, the female end having a non-threaded extension portion coaxial with the female threaded portion, and the female end having a bearing surface. Installation methods, including methods of installing instrumented probes are also provided.
Idaho National Laboratory 10/07/2008
Technology Status
Technology IDDevelopment StageAvailabilityPublishedLast Updated
B-444 and B-223D1 CIP.D1Prototype - System has been demonstrated and used for sensor deploymentAvailable07/11/201204/15/2014

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