Treating oil spills naturally
In movies and pictures from space and artistic renderings and even in most imaginations, the Earth is nearly always depicted as blue. Makes sense for a planet called the Blue Planet. Blue derived from our oceans. Pristine, sparkling, multiple hues of blue. Shimmering blue. Except there is a good chance the shimmer in our waters is not natural but due to oil that has been spilled into our oceans, over and over and over again.
Oil spills can happen on land and water. And there are quite often natural causes for them too. There are many steps involved in getting oil from deep inside the earth to your car or van or motorbike or generator and spills can happen during any of these steps, releasing oil onto land, or, as is more likely, into our seas. Drilling, refining, storing, transporting… oil spills can – and do – happen at any stage of the oil lifecycle.
Sometimes these spills happen because oil seeps into the oceans due to climatic factors or even weather disturbances or because sedimentary rocks in the bottom of the ocean get eroded. More often though, the causes are related to human activity. Sometimes, it is accidental. Sometimes because storage containers leak. Sometimes because ships carrying the oil have accidents. Sometimes because oil rigs explode. Sometimes because of plain negligence. And oil spills are not an instant affair. Sometimes oil spills last for days. Or months. Or years. Like the Taylor oil spill that has been dumping gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico every day since 2004.
For the last couple of centuries, our world has been dependent on oil to keep our engines running. And despite knowing more about the environmental impact of using fossil fuels, our dependence on oil is showing no signs of reducing. And one unfortunate effect of this dependence is oil spills. According to the Oil Spill Intelligence Report, there have been more than 4100 major oil spills since 1978, with most of them in these hot spots.
Gulf of Mexico (267 spills)
Northeastern U.S. (140 spills)
Mediterranean Sea (127 spills)
Persian Gulf (108 spills)
North Sea (75 spills)
Japan (60 spills)
Baltic Sea (52 spills)
United Kingdom and English Channel (49 spills)
Malaysia and Singapore (39 spills)
West coast of France and north and west coasts of Spain (33 spills)
Korea (32 spills)
Not only do these spills cause immediate harm to the water and marine ecosystems, it also causes long-term damage to birds and aquatic life and also to humans. Oil slicks in water coat bodies of aquatic creatures and birds in oil, choking them to death. Fish, birds, other wildlife are all affected by it. Animals like otters develop hypothermia because the oil coating their fur prevents them from maintaining body heat. And our treatment choices for oil spills aren’t helping either.
The modern world’s first major oil spill – the Torrey Canyon Oil Spill – happened in 1967 in the UK when a supertanker sank after hitting a reef off Cornwall. The resulting oil slick spanned 270 square miles. The Royal Navy’s response was to use toxic solvents to disperse the oil. Not only did that not work, it caused immense amounts of additional environmental damage and then they decided to bomb the ocean to burn away the oil. To clean up the oil spill from the Deepwater Horizon explosion, they used 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants – the effect of which on the ecosystem is yet to be calculated.
Chemical dispersants, burning and using booms or skimmers are still the most practised conventions to treat oil spills. But they are either not 100% effective or the damage they cause to the environment is just as deadly. Oil booms and skimmers are devices that work together to contain the oil spill on the water’s surface and stop it from flowing away. However, they need calm seas and no breeze to be able to function effectively. When the seas are rough or the wind is blowing, these devices aren’t able to stop the oil from flowing away. Burning oil leads to all the environmental pollution we can imagine. Air pollution due to smoke from burning oil even reaches coastal and inland regions, affecting life in all forms. Burning also leaves a residue behind further affecting the ecosystem. Chemical dispersants make oil spills less visible but leave oil, mixed with dispersants, under the surface where they continue to pose a threat to marine lives and ecosystems.
And the impact of oil spills on land is no less deadly. The scale at which we’re storing and transporting hydrocarbons is a massive threat to soil ecosystems and groundwater reserves worldwide. Oil spilled on land prevents water absorption by the soil. Spills on agricultural locations or grasslands not only kill existing plant life, they also prevent new life from taking growth. The chemicals in fuel deteriorates the quality of soil, making it unsuitable for cultivation.
Ultimately, the only solution for oil spills is to stop using oil. But since that is a distant likelihood at this time, we need to use nature’s help to treat oil spills, especially on land. And that help involves microbes. Bioremediation with microbes ensures that contaminants from petrochemical hydrocarbons are converted into harmless byproducts. These microbes use hydrocarbons as nutrition and convert them to water, carbon dioxide and other non-hazardous substances.
Our three-step process to naturally treat oil spills involves:
Bioaugmentation: adding a bio-population to oil spill sites for effective degradation
Biodegradation: where the microbes degrade hydrocarbons simpler, non-harmful substances
Biostimulation: involving the addition of supplementary nutrients like carbon to stimulate microbial activity
And our solution, derived from nature, developed by science and backed by nature, is Bioclean FOG. Containing a carefully selected suite of enzyme-producing microorganisms, Bioclean FOG is a safe and natural method for digesting oil, grease and organic waste. Bioclean FOG can effectively degrade hydrocarbons in much shorter times than chemical-based treatments. The microbes in Bioclean FOG can handle toxic and complex hydrocarbons, degrading them fully into harmless by-products. Using Bioclean FOG also ensures there are no costly clean-up procedures involved in the treatment.
If oil spills are affecting the nutritional quality of your soil, further affecting the yield and productivity at your farms, we can help.