Hazardous Adsorbents, Part 4: Bioremediation

Bioremediation microbes eating oil spills has taken the energy industry by storm. Oil companies love it because they can pretend oil spills are no longer a threat to the environment, and will just go away with nature’s help. But

The first law of thermodynamics, also known as the law of conservation of energy, states that “energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed from one form to another”. This means oil cannot “disappear”.

According to the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), the world’s oldest and largest life sciences organization, “oil eating microbes” don’t make oil go away. In reality, the oil spill “is converted into carbon dioxide which accounts for 80% of greenhouse gas emitted through human activities”.

Oops. In an area as large as the Gulf of Mexico, this amount of CO2 could definitely harm the ozone layer.

And there’s another problem: oil-eating microbes deplete the water of oxygen, creating dead zones in the ocean. There’s already a 6,000-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf off the mouth of the Mississippi River. Jim Spain, professor of environmental engineering at Georgia Tech, calls it “pretty big and pretty scary.”

Managing the microbes

So while the idea of oil spills simply disappearing sounds great, bioremediation does have harmful side effects.

Here’s how ASM summarizes the issue:

“When we talk about microbes that are able to clean up oil, we’re talking primarily about bacteria and fungi. Bacteria can break down oil to carbon dioxide and water. However, no single organism can break down all the components of crude oil or refined fuels spilled into the environment. The tens of thousands of different compounds that make up oil can only be biodegraded by communities of microorganisms acting in concert.

“Microbes can be counted on to biodegrade oil over time, though the process may not be fast enough to prevent ecological damage. Immediate containment or physical removal of the oil is therefore an important first line of defense. Even though oil-degrading microbes are found everywhere, their mere presence does not mean that environmental conditions are ideal for oil biodegradation. Environmental conditions, as well as the location, duration, and form of an oil spill strongly affect how quickly biodegradation will occur.”

For microbes to work on an oil spill on land, they need air and circulation. This requires large equipment to regularly turn and aerate the soil. It can also take several months for the microbes to work, and temperatures must be within a narrow range for best results.

Unlike microbes, Impact Absorbents products are environmentally neutral. They are organic, non-toxic, and do not break down or harm the environment in any way. Because XSORB is non-leaching, it will permanently trap chemicals and will not convert oil into a greenhouse gas, or release it back into the environment.

XSORB is your best decision for safe, effective oil spill clean up, every time.


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