The French start-up company Microhumus Analysis & Engineering made the announcement that this year it will begin field trials in Abu Dhabi of a novel technology to compost oil-contaminated desert land, at this week’s World Future Energy Summit. The annual conference, held since 2008 in Masdar City, is becoming the international carbon-neutral innovation hub of the renewable energy and sustainable development industry. Microhumus Analysis & Engineering is among the most interesting of the many international cleantech innovators displaying their low-carbon wares at the summit.
They claim that they will be able to build healthy soils to make the Gulf region green, reducing water consumption, and reclaiming wastes currently not being recycled. They have developed a way of composting oil industry waste so they can build healthy soils good enough to grow edible crops within two years from polluted oil fields, using minimal water.
Initially, after a year of bacteria degradation, they plant grasses and trees in the compost medium, to further stabilize the soil.
After a second year, they then plant edible crops, which they claim are safe to eat.
Their test of the technology will be undertaken in innovation-friendly Abu Dhabi this year. They will use composting to speed up the breakdown of the waste product of petrochemical production – normally a persistent pollutant oil slime containing asphaltic-resinous substances, as well as phenols, xylols, styrene and multiple other toxic and carcinogenic substances.
If it works, it will help reduce water use, which has had to be employed in the cleanup process. That unavoidably profligate use of water has significantly impacted water availability in an already water-stressed region.
While remediation at the level where edible crops could be grown and safely eaten in the polluted soil within two years is new, the idea of composting oil waste itself is not new.
A US study published in 1998 found that, oil waste could be broken down into a mostly acceptable material, within five months, with composting. Russian researchers have also been able to compost the upper layer of oil-slime, once it has been dried for a year. They claim to have reduced toxicity 85%, but on the other hand, the same study points out that sometimes this increases toxicity, with no embarrassment.
But the French company grew out of bio-remediation research undertaken by the French government – one that has no stake in oil production – unlike both the Russian or US governments that remain heavily dependent on oil revenues. (Such ties could arguably influence the research results).
So it is a smart choice by Abu Dhabi to contract with the French firm to test their novel technology to bio-remediate oil waste, since the company’s technology is based on what is more likely more impartial research.
It should be interesting to see how the test turns out.
Possible customers for pollution cleanup include most of the Middle Eastern nations, nor just the oil producers:
Perpetrators Flee The Scene Of Two Nile River Oil Spills
Poison at the Pump: Israel Gas Stations Major Groundwater Polluters
Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind? How Egypt Cleans Up
Will Israel’s Undersea Gas Pipeline Idea Increase the Mediterranean’s Already Polluted State?