Unusual Spill Solutions: Oil Eating Bacteria

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Chemical dispersants are already being used to cleanup the Gulf of Mexico, but what about oil-eating bacteria?

Richard Snyder is director of the Center for Environmental Diagnostics and Bioremediation at the University of Western Florida. He’ll talk to us about the use of dispersants in the gulf and the potential for oil-eating bacteria on today’s Underreported segment.


Dr. Richard Snyder

Comments [10]


Why aren't oil eating microbes being used? The technology is readily available.

Jun. 09 2010 05:02 AM
SolaRichard from Stink'n Tacoma

BP bought up 1/3 of the Earth's available supply of dispersants to keep the oil from reaching the surface, BP is fined for every bbl of oil found on the surface. 100,000 pounds a day from aircraft and perhaps more underwater at the site of the leak even though the manufacture told them it could react chemically in the cold water and be hazardous to the water table. They did it for 28 days straight to keep the oil from reaching the surface where they are fined.
Why use dispersants when coagulants make it much more easy to pick up the oil? Pitchfork or Kleenex - what a no-brainer.
I'm an environmental pinhead/Scientist but figured there was 2,743,000 +-10% gallons of oil leaking on Earth Day. I know BP knows how much is leaking as well. Put your arms out in front of you and touch your finger tips. That's how big this pipe that is gushing oil is. It's freakin big!

Jun. 06 2010 01:47 AM
Shekar Mantha from UWS, New York

Check out this site:

These guys have been cleaning up oil spills for the past 10 years. A fledgling company in NJ that has the solution.

Jun. 03 2010 04:46 PM
Rudi from queens

If you haven't already, please see this page on how to submit your suggestions directly to the panel that reviews them:

Jun. 03 2010 02:55 PM
Capt. Chris from Amityville

Years ago, a tugboat captain told me:
"When the oil depot at the mouth of the Hutchinson River has an oil spill, you can see the fish swimming merrily under the sheen.
But when the Coca-Cola plant there cleans their bottles, the fish are all floating belly-up."
He implied that detergent is much more toxic to fish than oil is. Chemical dispersants make:
the spill harder to measure,
the plumes harder to detect, and
the oil impossible to skim from the surface and recover.

Jun. 03 2010 01:58 PM
AD Cherson from NY

There is a new product called BioTiger that should have an application for land based clean up. Are there any options for cleaning up the oil once it is on the land?

Jun. 03 2010 01:42 PM
Lara from Brooklyn

It's my understanding that algae in the ocean create much of our atmospheric oxygen. What are the possible effects of both the oil and the dispersants on the algae?

Jun. 03 2010 01:41 PM
Rudi from queens

More oil eaten by more bacteria uses up m ore oxygen. I've heard this will ultimately cause more dead zones. Please ask your guest to address this.

Jun. 03 2010 01:29 PM
Murray Bodin from Hartsdale NY

If Richard Feynman were alive today he might look at the Gulf blowout somewhat like this:

Problem: There is a pipe, 2 miles long, full of oil going at high speed. Somewhat like a freight train 2 miles long: VERY hard to stop quickly. You have to slow the train over some distance. Likewise, you have to stop the stream of oil SLOWLY. How?

The saw blade got stuck yesterday. WHY? Because the pressure of the rising oil jammed the blade against the cut.

IMPORTANT! That means the flow of oil was restricted, which is the goal of this whole exercise. LEAVE THE STUCK SAW BLADE where it is! Make another cut 1-2 (?) inches above the first cut, only at 60 degrees around the pipe. Now you have restricted the oil more with the second stuck blade. Make a third cut 60 degrees more around the pipe, 1-2 inches above the last cut. You wind up with a series of stuck saw blades restricting the flow of oil, but more important, you now can do a junk shot with better expectation of it working. Because the blades form a barrier you didn't have before.


Last week's solution

One way might be to drill a small hole in the pipe (somewhat above the blowout preventer) with a drill with a long shank. When the drill is in the opposite side of the pipe, you leave it there and drill another 3 holes just under and 90 degrees to the first drill. Then more holes, bigger, with the drills forming a tight matrix, each drill bracing the ones under it. When the space between the drills is small enough, you insert steel balls (Bucky balls would be best) directly under the lowest set of rods. So they slide in, rather than get slammed into the rods. More balls until the flow of oil is significantly reduced. THEN, with the oil slowed, you do the junk shot and the junk will get stuck on the balls further reducing the flow.

The hydraulic rams either work in the first 30 seconds or the force of the oil going up jams the rams against the grove they are in and enormous force can't get them to move. Like a gate valve trying to stop a fast flow of water. Try sticking your finger in a garden hose flowing freely.

Look at the game Ker Plunk. Only put the rods in, not take them out.

Jun. 03 2010 12:39 PM
leif huron from Brooklyn

Interview Paul Stamets:
Mushrooms may be the answer!

Jun. 03 2010 12:02 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.