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Bioremediation Mechanism for Oil Spills

  • 17 Oct 2020
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), Chnnai has developed an eco-friendly crude oil bioremediation mechanism technology using consortia (group of two or more species) of marine microbes wheat bran (WB) immobilized (microbes controlled degradation) on agro-residue bacterial cells.

  • Wheat bran is the hard outer layer of the wheat kernel. It's stripped away during the milling process.

Key Points

  • Eco-friendly Crude Oil Bioremediation Mechanism Technology
    • Bioremediation: It can be defined as any process that uses microorganisms or their enzymes to remove and or neutralize contaminants within the environment to their original condition.
    • In the marine ecosystem, deep sea hydrocarbonoclastic (ability to degrade hydrocarbon) microbial consortium plays an important role in breaking down oil in the event of a spill.
      • The microbial community serves as energetic primary degraders of a complex mixture of petroleum hydrocarbons into various aldehydes, ketones and acidic metabolites.
      • These hydrocarbon degrading bacteria don’t depend on hydrocarbons for survival, but have a metabolic mechanism where they use petroleum products as carbon and energy source and thus, help cleaning up oil spills.
      • The complete breakdown and degradation of crude oil is achievable using wheat bran marine bacterial consortia (which are low-cost non-toxic agro-residues) in an environmentally sustainable manner.
    • Advantages of Immobilized State:
      • They are more effective in their immobilised state than the free bacteria cells in degrading the oil spills.
        • They could remove 84% of the oils within 10 days. The free bacterial cells degraded a maximum of 60% of the crude oil at optimised conditions.
      • They are more versatile and resistant to adverse conditions.
      • They have efficacy in treating accidental bulk discharge of oil in marine environments through non-toxic clean-up technology.

Oil Spill

  • It is an accidental/uncontrolled release of crude oil, gasoline, fuels, or other oil by-products into the environment. Oil spills can pollute land, air, or water, though it is mostly used for oceanic oil spills.
    • The recent MV Wakashio spill off Mauritius — about 1,000 tonnes of oil spilled into a sanctuary for rare wildlife after the Japanese ship struck a coral reef in 2020.
  • Cause: They have become a major environmental problem, chiefly as a result of intensified petroleum exploration and production on continental shelves and the transport of large amounts of oils in vessels.
  • Measure: Cleaning up of the oil spillage from the oceans without damaging the marine ecosystem is becoming an increasingly challenging task.
    • Containment Booms: Floating barriers, called booms are used to restrict the spread of oil and to allow for its recovery, removal, or dispersal.
    • Skimmers: They are devices used for physically separating spilled oil from the water’s surface.
    • Sorbents: Various sorbents (e.g., straw, volcanic ash, and shavings of polyester-derived plastic) that absorb the oil from the water are used.
    • Dispersing agents: These are chemicals that contain surfactants, or compounds that act to break liquid substances such as oil into small droplets. They accelerate its natural dispersion into the sea.

Source: DTE

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