Biodiesel Innovators Could Clean Up Gulf Oil Spill

John Davis

Leave it to biodiesel to fix another problem caused by non-renewable petroleum.

This article from Biodiesel Magazine
says the same people who produce the green fuel could be formulating methyl esters, the chemical yielded in biodiesel production, into a biobased solvent safe for cleaning up shorelines impacted by the oil:

The process starts with crews spraying the biosolvent from shallow draft boats onto oil-covered marsh vegetation or small beaches normally unreachable by land, said Randall von Wedel, founder and principal biochemist of CytoCulture International, a company that pioneered the method in the 1990s.

After the biosolvent is applied, it is followed with a gentle “rain” of seawater to rinse the dissolved petroleum mixture off the plants and shoreline for recovery on the water, using small mechanical skimmers.

“Unlike other clean-up techniques, the beauty of this is that it is a green process that is nonaggressive and won’t do any more damage to the oil-covered marshes and other sensitive habitats,” von Wedel said. “We’re growing concerned that the approach will be to slash and burn, which is incredibly damaging to the environment and will kill wildlife. They don’t need to do that.”

Later, mechanical skimmers can pick up the mixture of dissolved petroleum oil and CytoSol and actually recycle the recovered oil at local refineries. Other clean-up methods end up with the oil being dumped in landfills.

CytoCulture is now awaiting word from BP and the U.S. Coast Guard if they are interested in trying this out. Von Wedel points out that it’s already been successfully used in California.