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Microbes to eat up oil content  

Bacterial cocktail to eat up oil slick on the west coast

…by….Dinesh C. Sharma / Mail Today…newspaper.

A MASSIVE operation to clean up the oil pollution on the west coast caused by the collision of two shipping vessels began on last Friday. Scientists from Indian Oil Corporation ( IOC) are using a cocktail of microbes that eat up oil content in soil to clean up the mess. This is the first time bioremediation technology is being used on marine soils. It was recently tested to clean up oil spills off the Orissa coast. The technology has been under use on land areas for cleaning up oily sludge generated in refineries and in tank farms for some years now.

The technology makes oily sludge ecologically friendly through bioremediation. It involves the use of specialized cultured bacteria which eat away the oil in the sludge, making it natural without causing any harm to environment. Usually polluted soil is gathered in a pit and the bacterial cocktail is added to it. Within a few days, the bacteria do their job and turn the sludge into natural soil.

The clean up on the West coast is being jointly conducted by Faridabad- based the Research and Development Centre of IOC and The Energy and Resources Institute ( TERI), which had originally developed the technology. A team consisting of Dr D. K. Tuli of IOC and Dr Banwari Lal of TERI visited the sites affected by the spill, along with officials of the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board. About 100 volunteers from different agencies are carrying out the operation.

According to Dr R. K. Malhotra, director of research and development at IOC, some 1,500 kg of microbial mixture has been specially cultivated in large scale bioreactors jointly by TERI and IOC. These microbes have been dispatched to Mumbai in special containers for the clean- up operation. In the Orissa spill caused by sunken ship Black Rose at Paradip port, the microbial mixture was used and it worked very well. The mixture called — Oilivorous- S — is a blend of five microbes selected to biodegrade a wide range of hydrocarbon contaminants including oily sludge and sulphur.

These are of natural bacterial isolates and pose no threat to those who handle them or to the environment, officials said. The bacteria remain localised and get attached to targeted molecules of hydrocarbons. However, extending the same technology to aquatic or marine systems where the conditions are altogether different in terms of nature of medium needs further research.Microbes don’t thrive and survive very effectively in saline water.

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