Deep Sea Microbes Help Develop Low-Cost Oil Spill Solution | Chennai News
NIOT study aims to reduce the effects of oil spills
CHENNAI: A consortium of deep ocean bacteria has helped city researchers develop inexpensive, environmentally friendly technology to clean up oil spills at sea.
A team from the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) screened and isolated microbes, which thrive on hydrocarbons at a depth of 2,100 m in the Indian Exclusive Economic Zone and are capable of effectively removing toxic polycyclic aromatics in the crude oil.
G Dharani, head of NIOT’s marine biotechnology division, said the microbes are dormant in powder form. This is then mixed with water and a carrier material where the microbes deposit in large quantities after being “woken up”, to multiply immediately, through a medium containing nitrogen and phosphates which acts as instant food.
“When applied to a petroleum material, the consortium of bacteria produces an emulsifying biosurfactant, eats the hydrocarbons and breaks them down into microparticles, ultimately mineralizing them,” he said. The technology has been shown to efficiently degrade 90-95% of total hydrocarbons to non-toxic products in 28-30 days compared to existing technology which takes 3-6 months.
A NIOT researcher said their technology also has applications in coastal and marine oil spills, deep sea oil plumes and sludge treatment at refineries due to the presence of a consortium of working bacteria. together and their ability to tolerate a range of salinity, pH, temperature and pressure in the marine environment. “These microbes can degrade everything from gasoline to viscous motor oil from oil wells,” he said.
NIOT Director GA Ramadass signed an agreement with a Bengaluru-based company for technology transfer through the National Research Development Corporation.
The technology is an alternative to chemical surfactants which can break down the oil film on the sea surface into micro-droplets that join other organic substances when they sink deep. But in the process, they can settle on organisms like algae and algae that suffocate them.