Eureka moment for oil contaminated soil

Research and development business EUREKA has helped Lituanian company, Biocentras, develop and innovative treatment for oil contaminated soil.

The technique does not use potentially harmful chemicals of genetically modified technologies.

The process can be used to treat spills and sludge either on location or by removing the soil and treated in a less sensitive area.

The technique involves washing out the oil out by using a water solution of biosurfactant, this is then subsequently separated. The removed oil can be used again.

The biosurfactant solution used in the washing process can be applied up to ten times and is easily biodegraded into a common natural compound.

The oil that is still bound in the soil is then treated with specially selected micro-organisms to lower contamination concentration to a level when phytoremediation can start.

Phytoremediation consists of decreasing pollutant concentrations in contaminated soils, by growing plants able to degrade to an acceptable level or render harmless the contaminants in the soil.

The process takes about a year, depending upon the severity of the contamination and the location.

In contrast to other solutions for cleaning oil contaminated land, this technique uses non-genetically modified bacteria. The bacteria then dies off after the process become food to other forms of life.

The developed technology can be applied to soil contaminated by any concentration of oil or oil products. Usually biodegradation can be effective in 20 to 50 g/kg of pollution, and sometimes up to 100 g/kg. However, Biocentras can clean up oil sludge with up to 300 g/kg of pollutants.

Currently the technology in mainly in use in Lithuania, where Biocentras has successfully treated over 22,000 tons of soil for an oil refinery.

Alison Brown

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