Bioremediation – Cleaning Up Oil Spills Nature's Way
Big oil spills like the Exxon Valdez incident, the BP well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, and the destruction of Kuwaiti oil wells during the Gulf War are spectacular indications of large-scale problems that require innovative thinking and processes – including improvements on nature's own bioremediation methods – to clean up. The fact is, hydrocarbon spills on land and water occur regularly, and while not nearly as large and notable, are an ongoing fact of life in petroleum production and transportation.
Many manmade methods, both mechanical and chemical, have been used over the years to remove and treat contaminated soil and water – but it's also true that Nature itself does a very good job of cleaning up hydrocarbons, using microbes that naturally thrive on breaking down oil products into harmless components and returning soil and water to their clean, natural condition. It just requires enough time and space to do so, with the natural process taking several years to complete. The problem is, the sheer volume and pace of oil spills has outstripped nature's capacity to remediate the situation in a reasonable timeframe. This has spawned new methods of natural bioremediation – stimulating and accelerating natural bacterial remediation processes to achieve the kinds of results that chemical and mechanical remediation efforts aim for.
How Does Bioremediation Work?
Bioremediation is the use of microbes to clean up contaminated soil and groundwater. These microbes live naturally in the environment, and bioremediation involves stimulating the growth of those microbes which use oil and other contaminants as a source of food and energy. They digest these contaminants, converting them into water and harmless gases. If contaminated sites do not contain enough of these natural microbes, more microbes can be added through a process called "bioaugmentation".
For bioremediation to be effective, the right bacteria, temperature and nutrients must be present. These conditions allow the right microbes to multiply, and eat more contaminants – ideally, accelerating the natural remediation process to a point where cleanup can occur within a very short period of time. The process can be further enhanced by adding amendments such as additional food sources and oxygen.
Determining the right combination of bacterial species, nutrients, and amendments to reduce the time required is part of the science and art of bioremediation. Since soil or water contamination can vary widely in terms of the composition of the oil that is spilled, proper analysis of the makeup of the spill, and selection of the right combination of bioremediation components is necessary to ensure the most efficient cleanup approach.
How Can Dycor Help With Your Contaminated Site?
Dycor's understanding of oil chemistry, and developing the right mix of bacteria, nutrients, and amendments has positioned us to respond to the environmental remediation requirements facing the oil industry – both in emergency response and in operational environmental cleanup requirements. Are you interested in exploring site remediation options? Talk to us about a bioremediation solution.