Oil spills are a rare but environmentally devastating occurrence, so developing new bioremediation – the removal of residues from oil spills at sea and on land, is vitally important.
Crude oil is refined into many different products, from light products that evaporate easily such as diesel to heavy residues that are very persistent like bunker fuel oil.
Bunker fuel oil is used to fuel ships at sea and is carried in storage tanks on the vessel. Occasionally ships collide or run aground and when they do this heavy fuel oil is spilled to the sea and shorelines.
After the bulk of the oil has been physically collected, residues will still remain for many years.
There are two types of bioremediation that can be discussed here:
- Natural microorganisms degrade the oil
- Fertilisers or additional biological organisms are added to the oil to speed up the degradation process.
Further reading on biofilms and oil spills
Ali, N., Dashti, N., Khanafer, M. et al.Bioremediation of soils saturated with spilled crude oil. Sci Rep 10, 1116 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-57224-x.
Atlas, R. M., & Hazen, T. C. (2011). Oil biodegradation and bioremediation: a tale of the two worst spills in U.S. history. Environmental science & technology, 45(16), 6709–6715. https://doi.org/10.1021/es2013227.
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