When you think of biotechnology, what comes to mind? Maybe you imagine someone in a clean room wearing a lab coat and working with specimens. You might imagine a harvester scooping up corn destined to be used to make biofuel. While biotechnology is widely used in the healthcare and agricultural industries, it has many uses. One that you may not be aware of involves oil spills.
As you know, hazardous leaks can be devastating to the environment and wildlife. A prompt response is essential in containing and cleaning any toxic leaks. Traditional methods include using booms to contain oil and large skimming devices to scoop or suck it into storage tanks.
Oil remediation companies have another option at their disposal: biotechnology. Biotechnology is “the exploitation of biological processes for industrial and other purposes.” For example, biotechnology often involves the genetic manipulation of microorganisms for the production of antibiotics, vaccines, and hormones.
Microorganisms are used in oil remediation to actually eat the oil. However, oil slicks are large, thick masses. Oil remediation companies often use traditional methods to clean up the bulk of an oil spill and then use bioremediation solutions to disperse larger masses of leftover oil into smaller particle sizes that are easier for microbes to consume. By blending both traditional and biotechnological oil remediation techniques, it becomes possible to clean hazardous leaks faster and with fewer harmful consequences than before.
For example, E&B Green Solutions’ G-Clean Oil and Fuel Spill product is used to emulsify and encapsulate oil spills. The biodegradable solution is plant-based, making it an environmentally friendly alternative to chemical dispersants. The solution penetrates and breaks down the hydrocarbon bonds in oil, holding them in a colloidal suspension and making them water soluble. The oil particles are broken down into extremely small sizes ideal for the natural microbes found in the affected area to consume. As the naturally present microbes consume these oil particles, their population increases. As the microbial population booms, more oil is consumed which makes bioremediation a self-perpetuating process.
Some of the benefits of using biotechnology to clean oil spills include:
1. It’s possible to harness natural biological processes to consume oil with bioremediation solutions. By breaking oil down into nano-sized particles, the affected area’s existing microbes begin consuming and digesting oil. With plenty of “food” available, these populations explode which, in turn, speeds the biodegradation process.
2. Fewer man hours are required, cutting costs and allowing for a faster return of equipment to service.
3. Bioremediation solutions made from plant-based ingredients are also biodegradable. Environmentally friendly, there’s no hazardous materials to dispose of and employees won’t be exposed to harmful chemicals.
Cleaning up an oil spill is a major undertaking with numerous stakeholders to satisfy including local residents, politicians, oil companies, lawyers, and employees. Bioremediation allows oil remediation companies to quickly and more efficiently clean hazardous leaks, reduce costs, and ease the environmental concerns of nearby residents.