Using Microbes to Improve Spill Cleanup

What are Microbes

Microbes (or microorganisms) are microscopic organisms that exist as a single cell or a colony of cells. All single-cell organisms are considered microbes. Thus, the term, microbes, is broad and encompasses a wide variety of organisms. Microbes exist in nearly every environment and can adapt to extreme conditions. Microbes are important in human life as they can perform a wide variety of tasks that are critical. These include:

  • Fermenting food
  • Treating sewage
  • Producing fuel and other bioactive compounds
  • Producing soil nutrients

We are going to focus on a developing application: consuming oil spills.

Using Microbes on Oil Spills

When an oil spill occurs, the first step is trying to absorb as many hydrocarbons as possible. In marine settings, this is crucial in stopping contamination. In most manufacturing and industrial settings, people will use absorbent pads, booms, socks, etc. These products absorb hydrocarbons and then can be disposed into a landfill (via a waste management company). However, there are some environmental issues with this cleanup process. The oil is not remediated as it is put into the landfill.

This is where microbes can help treat the hydrocarbons. After a spill, remediation companies will spray the spill with a microbe liquid suspension or spread a microbe culture powder. This occurs after the absorbents soaked up loose oil. So not all the oil is remediated by the microbes and some of it will be put into landfills. Having microbes within the absorbents and/or deployed immediately on the spill will improve the cleanup.

Eating the Oil

Microbes degrade or “eat” hydrocarbons and then break them down into water and carbon dioxide. Scientists measure oil contamination in soil or water by measuring Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) in samples. They measure a site over time by regularly measuring TPH over time. If the microbes are doing their job, TPH should drop over time. If these microbes are present in absorbents, they can continue to degrade the absorbed oil even after the absorbents have been disposed of.

Green Boom

Green Boom manufactures 100% biodegradable oil-only absorbents that include microbes. Their proprietary biomass filler can be used to soak up oil spills and breakdown hydrocarbons all at the same time. The microbes in the absorbent products have been tested on the BP-Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill with spectacular results. After 4 weeks of testing, 95.3% of alkanes and 68.9% of PAHs were reduced. After 12 weeks of testing, 99.8% of hydrocarbons were degraded.

These absorbent products have superior absorbency and naturally breakdown. This reduces disposal costs and allows for an environmentally-friendly oil spill cleanup. All parts of the product are made with natural fibers and absorbed oil will degrade with microbes. Green Boom’s absorbents are designed to be fast wicking and will achieve up to 90% absorption capacity within the first 5 minutes of contact with oil.

Our New Partnership

Twin Specialties is proud to announce a new partnership with Green Boom to provide you 100% biodegradable absorbent products.

Twin Specialties can offer the following Green Boom absorbents:

Check out our absorbents page for technical product information. Contact Twin Specialties and we will work with you to improve your oil-spill cleanup response. Be on the lookout for more posts about our new biodegradable absorbents and case studies.