MadSci Network: Earth Sciences

Re: Oil spills / pollution

Area: Earth Sciences
Posted By: Karla Wilson, Staff, Biology
Date: Mon Dec 11 10:13:15 1995

Dear Melissa;
Some methods for cleaning up oil spills that are being tested and used are listed in no particular order below.
One very good solution for oil spills is to prevent them from happening in the first place. Some prevention methods might include increasing the thickness of ships hulls, reducing the consumption and need for oil in our culture, or creating stricter standards or regulations for the transport of oil.
An oil spill clean up technique that has been used since the late 1980's is called "bioremediation". This is a fancy term for using living organisms to break down the petroleum into less complicated materials that are not hazardous or regulated. In effect, bacteria are placed in the contaminated water to destroy the oil.
In 1989 an evaluation of a substance called Foam-X was conducted by the Canadian Petroleum Association. Foam-X is supposed to absorb spilled oil and reduce the likelihood of the oil catching on fire when the foam is placed on the surface of an oil slick. Foam-X is an open cell polyurethane foam. Tests were run comparing the effectiveness of Foam-X to peat moss and vermiculite. Conclusions of the study were that Foam-X is capable of absorbing significant amounts of oil with relatively short contact times. It is not affected by water. Oil can be effectively recovered from Foam-X and Foam-X appears to reduce the release of vapors from oil spills.
Good luck in your research!

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