Unique microbe collection for environmental cleanup, oil recovery developed

October 17th, 2008 - 4:44 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Oct 167 (ANI): US Department of Energy’’s Savannah River National Laboratorys unique collection of microbes, called BioTiger, has been found to be useful for both cleaning up the environment and addressing peoples energy needs.

The BioTiger was the result of over eight years of extensive work that began at a century-old Polish waste lagoon.

“DOE had originally funded us to work with our Polish counterparts to develop a microbe-based method for cleaning up oil-contaminated soils,” explained Dr. Robin Brigmon, SRNL Fellow Engineer.

They identified microbes from that lagoon, which could break down the oil to carbon dioxide and other non-hazardous products.

Brigmon said: “The project was a great success. The lagoon now has been cleaned up, and deer now can be seen grazing on it.”

It has now been shown that BioTiger naturally produces chemicals that may have other industrial uses like direct application for cleaning up oil residues on surfaces such as concrete slabs and building foundations.

Other than its original environmental cleanup uses, BioTiger has recently been shown to be highly effective for increasing oil recovery from oil sands without added chemicals.

Oil sands (also referred to as tar sands) are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous material. They are mined and processed to generate oil similar to that pumped from conventional oil wells.

However, extracting oil from these sands is more complex and requires more energy than standard oil recovery. There have been concerns about the environmental impact of these operations, including concerns about the amount of water used in the process, energy cost to operate the systems, runoff from the tailings ponds, wastewater from the facilities, and chemical residues in the water left over from the extraction process.

But, BioTiger based enhanced oil recovery process could pave the way for a method to maximize capacity and minimize environmental impact, while remaining cost effective.

The BioTiger microbes attach themselves to the oil sands, separating the oil from the sand particles. The microbes make the separation step easier, which not only removes more oil, but also reduces energy costs.

In a test using oil sands from Ft. McMurray, Canada, BioTiger demonstrated a 50 percent improvement in separation over 4 hours, and a five-fold increase at 25 hours.

It may also have potential for other oil recovery initiatives, including oil shale and other underground areas with oil deposits.

Nanotech Briefs, a newsletter covering the rapidly expanding field of nanotechnology, awarded SRNL’’s BioTiger a spot on its fourth annual Nano 50 list. The awards will be presented during the National Nano Engineering Conference, Nov. 12-13 in Boston. (ANI)

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