Bio-product tackles oil spills, sludge disposal
India-based institute opens new pilot facility to producer Oilzapper microbes
BY THOMAS GOUNLEY
The Energy and Resources Institute, or TERI, has opened a new facility that will allow expanded production of Oilzapper microbes, which help biodegrade crude oil, oily sludge and other waste generated or spilled by the oil industry.
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Because the microbes come from bacterial strains existing in the natural environment, the India-based institute said they restore the site to its original condition in four months, leaving behind no harmful residue on land or water.
The new pilot-scale “Fermentation Technology Research Centre and Biopesticide Laboratory” will be able to produce 20 metric tons of the product per month, which will allow the institute to meet increasing demand from oil companies, said Banwari Lal, director of TERI’s Environmental and Industrial Biotechnology Division.
“It is a fully automated platform with facilities for up-scaling from 10 liter to 1,000 liter fermentation,” said Lal in an email to Greening of Oil.
The facility will also be used for research and development and commercial scale demonstration, as well as for training and human resource development.
According to its Web site, TERI works toward “the development of solutions to global problems in the fields of energy, environment and current patterns of development, which are largely unsustainable.” The institute is headquartered in India, but has locations around the world, including in Washington D.C.
Technology is mix of five bacterial strains
Oilzapper is essentially a cocktail of five different bacterial strains that are immobilized and mixed with powdered corncob, a carrier material.
“The technology feeds on the hydrocarbon compounds present in crude oil and oily sludge in a process known as bioremediation, in which living organisms are used to reduce or eliminate environmental hazards resulting from accumulation of toxic chemicals, or hazardous waste,” TERI said. The technology was first produced in 1997.
In a 1997 study testing the effectiveness of Oilzapper, an early version of the technology resulted in 48.5 percent biodegradation of total petroleum hydrocarbons, or TPH, in four months in a contaminated area when a bacterial population of 104 colony-forming-units per gram. This was the best response of the six treatments tested.
In contrast, the control method, consisting of nutrients alone, resulted in only 17 percent biodegradation, TERI said.
Oilzapper lasts for up to three months at normal temps
Once produced, Oilzapper is stored in sterile polythene bags for transport. It is effective for up to three months at normal temperatures.
Bioremediation is not the only method which has been employed to deal with oil spills and disposal, but it may be the most environmentally friendly.
“Bioremediation is the most effective, eco-friendly and economical viable amongst all the available methods of oil spill cleanup and also oily sludge treatment methods since bioremediation uses naturally occurring microorganisms to transfer harmful substances to non toxic compounds,” Lal said.
Oilzapper can be used in both marine and terrestrial environments, and to mitigate the effects of oil spills and the by-products that come with the production of petroleum, Lal said, pointing to oil refineries.
Oilzapper was developed by TERI. The research was supported by TERI’s Department of Biotechnology, the Indian Government, and the Indian oil industry. The product has been used by oil companies throughout India, as well as the Middle East.
The new facility is jointly funded by DBT along with Indian Oil Corporation Limited, R & D Centre, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited, Oil Industry Development Board and TERI.
Links of Interest
The Energy and Resources Institute- Press Release
Dr. Banwari Lal’s bio
Oilzapper case study
U.S. Environmental oil spill response techniques
Contact Thomas Gounley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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