Integrated Biotechnological Solutions for Combating Marine Oil Spills
Oil spill disasters are a worldwide problem and current technologies do not satisfactorily address the issue. It is important to recognize that 'miracle microorganisms' and 'magic elixirs' sprinkled on an oil spill will not do the job. An integrated approach considering at the same time: (1) metabolic requirements of biodegrading organisms alongside the properties of the oil, (2) environmental limitations on oil biodegradation and (3) innovative delivery mechanisms for agents that alleviate these bottlenecks is critical. This is the essence of the Kill.Spill project. It represents a European initiative fully committed to tackle oil spill disasters in an integrated and interdisciplinary fashion employing highly efficient remediation strategies.
The principal objective of Kill.Spill is to develop highly efficient, economically and environmentally viable solutions for the clean-up of oil spills caused by maritime transport or offshore oil exploration and related processes, which have been fully validated in large mesocosm facilities under controlled conditions and by application to real life oil spills.
In general, once crude oil is spilled, it takes at least one week before biodegradation
processes begin to take effect. Kill.Spill aims to shorten this start-up period to the absolute minimum by providing technologies for example, that provide the necessary nutrients together with hydrocarbon degrading consortia and/or enhancing compounds (biosurfactants) to both accelerate and maximize bioremediation rates from the time of application. In addition, when the use of dispersants is recommended, the previously mentioned biostimulation and bioaugmentation formulations will
be applied together with specific compounds acting as dispersants that take the oil from the surface to the water column and ultimately to the sea floor. Taking into account that as we go deeper in the water column, the amount of dissolved oxygen is more difficult to replenish by diffusion, Kill•Spill also offers specific novel technologies (OxygelTM and AerobeadsTM) that release oxygen over longer periods of time. As a result, it maintains greater bioremediation rates of dispersed oil in the water column, even when it reaches the sediments. In cases where it is not feasible, this approach will be complemented with the development of processes to stimulate oil biodegradation anaerobically in anoxic sediments. Once the dispersed oil reaches the sediments, bioremediation rates are substantially reduced due to the prevailing anoxic conditions. Kill.Spill provides a series of highly innovative technologies (e.g., 'Kill.Spill snorkel', 'Kill.Spill Robot', 'Kill.Spill Sed-Cleaner') that overcome this problem and induce enhanced biodegradation rates in the sediments. These technologies can also be used for the remediation of recurrently polluted sediments (from old oil spills) in all types of environments from the Eastern Mediterranean to Disko Bay in Greenland. In addition, several other innovative products will be developed, e.g. 'Kill.Spill All-in-One', 'Kill.Spill Deep-sea', 'Kill.Spill Bio-boom', besides the 'Kill.Spill Biosensor' for in-situ monitoring of oil degradation.
A toolbox of highly innovative (bio)technologies will be developed and made readily available to all emergency response personnel subject to final approval by the European Marine Safety Agency and related Member State agencies. An important aspect of the Kill.Spill project is the field testing of the developed technologies in actual oil spills that will occur in Eastern Mediterranean Sea and in North/Norwegian Sea over the next 4 years. Kill.Spill has secured the partnership of two SMEs whose primary business is the emergency response for combating oil spills in both marine regions.