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(Environment) Oil Spills: Damage from Guimaras Oil Spill

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 9:23 am    Post subject: (Environment) Oil Spills: Damage from Guimaras Oil Spill Reply with quote

Damage from Guimaras oil spill growing, authorities say
Associated Press
Last updated 10:13pm (Mla time) 08/17/2006

LA PAZ -- The Philippines' worst oil spill could ravage fisheries and other
coastal resources in one of the country's central provinces, officials said
Thursday, as authorities tried to contain a leak from a sunken tanker.

The Solar I, carrying 2 million liters (528,360 gallons) of fuel oil, sank
Friday in deep waters south of the island province of Guimaras.

Provincial Governor Joaquin Nava said Wednesday the oil spill has
affected or damaged 15 square kilometers (10 square miles) of coral
reefs, over 200 kilometers (125 miles) of coastline, 1,000 hectares
(2,470 acres) of marine reserves, at least two resort islands and 50
hectares (124 acres) of seaweed plantations.

In Guimaras' hard-hit La Paz village, the oil slick has stained nearly
everything on its shore, including the walls of shanties that dot the beach.
Small fishing boats have been grounded for nearly a week and many
fishermen chatted idly amid a strong stench that resembled burning

Village leader Connie Gamuyaw said the slick was taking a toll on the
poor village's livelihood and threatening its marine resources, including
teeming mangroves. Some residents have begun coughing and moved

Gamuyaw said nearby Taclong Island, a marine reserve, used to lure a
lot of foreigners, but with its beachfront and mangroves stained by the
smelly slick, the visitors are gone.

"It used to be known as a paradise island, but now it's a black paradise,"
she said.

Nava said about a third of his province's 150,000 constituents live off the
sea and an estimated 10,000 residents of coastal villages who rely on
fishing are temporarily without livelihood.

"Only lately, we pulled ourselves out of the 20 poorest [provinces in the
Philippines]. Now I suppose we will be going back," Nava told The
Associated Press, adding that tourism and fishing were hit particularly

The provincial government on Monday declared a "state of calamity" in
Guimaras, allowing the speedy release of relief funds in the area, about
500 kilometers (310 miles) southeast of Manila.

Valladolid town, in nearby Negros Occidental province east of Guimaras,
made a similar declaration Tuesday as the slick approached its shores.

Coast guard officials did not know how much of the fuel oil has spilled out
from the tanker, which is lying 900 meters (3,000 feet) under water.

Environment Secretary Angelo Reyes told provincial officials that
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo instructed him to seek help from
Indonesia and Malaysia.

Nicasio Alcantara, chairman of Petron Corp., the fuel supplier, promised
to help with the cleanup.

Sunshine Maritime Development Corp., which owned the tanker, will send
British experts to assess whether the tanker might be salvaged or the
remaining fuel oil siphoned out, according to company official Clemente

An oil slick about 16 kilometers (10 miles) long was observed early
Wednesday moving northeast between Guimaras and Negros Occidental,
said Cmdr. Harold Jarder, the coast guard official in charge of cleanup

"It will be like a ticking time bomb undersea. Honestly speaking, we really
have no way of knowing how much it has spilled," he told The Associated

"The spill itself could take months or even years to clean up. This shows
how ill-prepared we are for this type of disaster," said Von Hernandez,
Southeast Asia campaign director for the environmental group

Last year, more than 300,000 liters (80,000 gallons) of fuel oil spilled
when a tanker ran aground near central Semirara Island.


Questions to explore further this topic:

Oil and water do not mix

What is oil pollution?

What is an oil spill?

An online lesson on oil spills

Oil spill remote sensing activities

Oil Spill: classroom activities

Oil spills and the public

What are the environmental effects of an oil spill?

Oil Spills and Wildlife

Responding to an oil spill: A guided tour

The Oil Spill Mystery: A Story written by 4th graders

Oil Spill in a Test Tube


Where is Guimaras?

Photos of Guimaras

How long will it take to clean up the Guimaras oil spill?


Last edited by adedios on Sat Jan 27, 2007 3:17 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 24, 2006 10:11 am    Post subject: Guimaras Oil Spill Reply with quote


The Taklong island national marine reserve is a feeding and
breeding ground for fish and other marine life. Scientists have
recorded 29 types of hard coral in the area, 144 species of fish, 7
species of sea grass and 3 species of mangroves.

Some 148 miles of coastline have already been enveloped by a thick
sludge and more than 15 square kilometres of coral reef have been
destroyed. In one of the worst-affected villages, La Paz on Guimaras,
virtually everything along the shore is coated in oil. A number of
residents have moved away after developing respiratory problems as a
result of the acrid smell enveloping the community, the Associated
Press quoted the village chief, Connie Gamuyaw, as saying.

Some 15,000 people in the area are thought to have been directly
affected and more than 150,000 people who make their livelihoods from
the sea are indirectly affected.

Only one of the 10 fuel containers is thought to have ruptured but
officials fear the stresses of lying on the seabed 900m (3,000ft)
below the surface could causes the other containers to leak.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Guimaras Oil Spill Tens Times Worse Than Semirara
by Oliver Mendoza

Last Friday, an oil tanker carrying 2 million liters of oil sank 20
nautical miles off the coast of northern Guimaras (for more details,
read this article). News of the oil spill did not immediately merit
widespread attention because of the typhoon that caused widespread
destruction in Western Visayas during the weekend. People are now
just starting to realize how serious the Guimaras oil spill is to the
marine ecosystem of the region.

The latest oil spill in Guimaras already brings to two the number of
oil spills to hit Western Visayas in just two years. Recall that only
last December 2005, a NAPOCOR barge spilled 210,000 liters of bunker
fuel off the coast of Semirara island in Antique. The Semirara Oil
Spill destroyed more than 236 hectares of mangrove and polluted 40
kilometers of marine shoreline in Antique. It also took almost a year
to clean up the mess and it seriously affected the livelihood of
fisherfolk in the province. There were even fears that the oil slick
would reach Boracay but thankfully, it proved to be unfounded.

The Guimaras Oil Spill (2 million liters) makes the Semirara Disaster
(200,000 liters) pale by comparison. The latest oil spill is at least
ten times worse than the Semirara disaster.

So how much will cleaning up 2 million liters of oil cost? If we are
to judge by previous experience, NAPOCOR (which claimed full
responsibility for the Semirara oil spill), allocated P90 million to
rehabilite the mangroves, hire some 350 local residents for clean up
operations and pay some 150 families who were directly affected by
the oil spill. So if cleaning up 210,000 liters cost P90 million, it
is therefore safe to assume that cleaning up the M/V Solar I oil
spill would cost P900 million.

It is rather unfortunate that an environmental disaster of this
magnitude would strike just when Guimaras's tourism industry seemed
poised to take off. I myself have been doing my share in promoting
the province's white sand beaches as a cheaper alternative to
Boracay. What really infuriates me is that fact that all the nice
white sand beaches in Guimaras are located near the oil spill site.
Now, all the efforts in promoting the island province's tourism
potential has come to naught because of this tragedy.

Aside from affecting resort owners, the oil spill will also affect
the lives of poor fisherfolk in the area who rely entirely on the sea
as their source of income and food. Petron definitely, should pay for
this crime!
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PostPosted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 10:06 am    Post subject: Cebu ‘safe’ from oil spill Reply with quote

Cebu ‘safe’ from oil spill

Sea current pushes oil streak farther north

By Doris C. Bongcac
Cebu Daily News
Last updated 09:08am (Mla time) 08/27/2006

BANTAYAN ISLAND— The danger is over for northern Cebu.

Sea currents are pushing the Guimaras Island oil slick northeast towards Masbate province and the northern tip of nearby Biliran Island based on a radar satellite image of the disaster site and oil flow taken on Aug. 24.

“It’s over,” announced environment lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr. yesterday after making an aerial inspection of the calamity site to track the oil spill from the sunken tanker Solar 1.

He said the spread of the oil slick has missed Bantayan Island, the gateway to Cebu mainland.

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PostPosted: Mon Nov 13, 2006 10:53 am    Post subject: Tripling the efficiency of a mainstay oil spill cleanup tech Reply with quote

Tripling the efficiency of a mainstay oil spill cleanup technology
Environmental Science & Technology
13 November 2006

Scientists in California report a major advance in the technology for cleaning up oil spills on oceans, lakes and other waterways. Victoria Broje and Arturo A. Keller describe construction and field tests of an improved version of the mechanical skimmer, the mainstay device for recovering oil spilled on water.

Relatively unchanged for decades, the typical skimmer consists of a revolving steamroller-like drum that picks up a film of oil on the drum's surface. A scraper then removes the oil, which drops into a collector. Broje and Keller note that traditional skimmers are inefficient, work poorly with thin oils like light crude or diesel and can be expensive to use in cleaning up large spills.

The new mechanical skimmer, described in a report scheduled for the Dec. 15 issue of the semi-monthly ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology uses a grooved surface. With a larger surface area, the grooves scoop up more oil than the smooth-surfaced traditional skimmer. The scraper is machined to precisely match the groove geometry, removing almost 100 percent of the adhered oil with each rotation. The grooves also are coated with an improved oil-adhering polymer. Field tests show that the new skimmer is up to three times more efficient than traditional skimmers, the scientists report.

Improved Mechanical Oil Spill Recovery Using an Optimized Geometry for the Skimmer Surface"

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PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2007 6:28 am    Post subject: Asphalt-Munching Bacteria Discovered Reply with quote

Asphalt-Munching Bacteria Discovered
By Dave Mosher, LiveScience Staff Writer

posted: 10 May 2007 06:01 pm ET

Vehicles may crowd the asphalt of downtown Los Angeles freeways above ground, but below ground hundreds of newly discovered bacteria thrive by munching on heavy oil and natural asphalt.

Trapped in the Rancho La Brea tar pits 28,000 years ago, the bacteria are equipped with special enzymes that can break down petroleum, environmental scientists at the University of California, Riverside report in a recent issue of Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The petroleum-dismantling enzymes could be used to clean up oil spills, create new medicines and manufacture biofuels, among other uses.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 18, 2007 10:42 am    Post subject: Case closed: MIT gumshoes solve "throbbing" oil my Reply with quote

Case closed: MIT gumshoes solve "throbbing" oil mystery
Denise Brehm, Civil and Environmental Engineering
July 17, 2007

Hey kids! Try this at home. Pour clean water onto a small plate. Wait for all the ripples to stop. Then mix a small amount of mineral oil with an even smaller amount of detergent. Squeeze a tiny drop of that mixture onto the water and watch in amazement as the oil appears to pump like a beating heart.

It's a simple experiment, but explaining what makes the drop of oil throb--and then stop when deprived of fresh air--has long mystified the scientific community. Now, in work that could have applications in fields from biology to environmental engineering, an MIT team has cracked the case.

In the July 25 issue of the Journal of Fluid Mechanics, MIT Professors Roman Stocker of civil and environmental engineering and John Bush of mathematics explain what happens when an oil drop containing a water-insoluble surfactant (or material that reduces the surface tension of a liquid, allowing easier spreading) is placed on a water surface.

"It's an easy experiment to make. But getting the theory for it was not straightforward," Bush said. "Roman turned a microscope loose on the problem--which was key to finally understanding it."

The question of the physical phenomenon of oil spreading on a surface has been around for some time. Benjamin Franklin wrote about it in 1774 in the Transaction of the American Philosophical Society, after he saw Bermuda spear fishermen use oil to damp waves so they could more easily see fish under the ocean surface.

The question Stocker and Bush examined had another dimension: why oil with an added surfactant doesn't come to rest, but instead contracts and repeats the process in a periodic fashion.

The mechanism, they now know, is surface tension, or more precisely, evaporation-induced variations in surface tension. These changes in surface tension cause the drop to expand, then contract, and repeat the process every couple of seconds until it runs out of gas, which in this case, is surfactant. Covering the experiment stops the process because it prevents evaporation of the surfactant.

"We're dealing with three interfaces: between the oil drop, the water in the Petri dish, and the air above it," Stocker said, explaining surface tension. "A detergent is a surfactant, which reduces the surface tension of a liquid. The detergent molecules we added to the oil drop prefer to stay at the interface of the oil and water, rather than inside the oil drop."

Think of the oil detergent drop as a small lens with a rounded bottom. The surfactant in the drop moves to the bottom surface of the lens, where it interacts with the water to decrease the surface tension where oil meets water. This change in tension increases the forces pulling on the outer edges of the drop, causing the drop to expand.

The center of the drop is deeper than the edges, so more surfactant settles there, reducing the surface tension correspondingly. This causes the oil and surfactant near the outer edges of the drop to circulate. This circulation creates a shear (think of it as two velocities going in opposite directions), which generates very tiny waves rolling outward toward the edge. When these waves reach the edge, they cause small droplets to erupt and escape onto the water surface outside the drop. Videomicroscopy - essentially, attaching a video camera to a microscope - was critical in observing this step in the process. Those droplets of oil and surfactant disperse on the water and decrease the surface tension of the water surface, so the drop contracts.

As the surfactant evaporates, the surface tension of the water increases again, and the system is reset. Forces pull at the outer edges of the lens, and the cyclical process begins again.

But the beating ceases instantly when Stocker and Bush put a lid over it. If the surfactant can't evaporate, the oil drop remains stable. In the end, it was being able to stop the beating process that made it clear to the researchers that evaporation played a central role in the mechanism.

"This is a bizarre and subtle mechanism. Everybody was flummoxed," said Bush, whose recent research includes understanding how some insects walk on water.

He first heard about the oil drop phenomenon from Professor Emeritus Harvey Greenspan of mathematics, who had pondered it for some time. Bush in turn talked to Stocker, who was then an instructor in the Department of Mathematics. It took about three years of sporadic work (without funding), and the help of two undergraduate students who carried out the lab repetitions--Margaret Avener and Wesley Koo--but Stocker and Bush finally solved it.

To what end, the researchers don't yet know. "One rationalizes the physical world by understanding the mechanisms," said Bush, explaining the importance of basic scientific research. "One can never predict which mechanisms will be important."

"Oil contamination of water resources is a prominent problem in environmental engineering," said Stocker. "Awareness of the fundamental mechanisms governing the interaction between the two phases is critical to devise sound engineering solutions for remediation."

Spontaneous oscillations are observed in many natural systems, including nerve cells, muscle tissue, and the biological clocks responsible for circadian rhythms, the professors said. And previous work published on the oil drop problem had been carried out by scientists interested in seeing if the mechanism could explain biological oscillations.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 29, 2007 3:16 pm    Post subject: Hundreds of Oil-Covered Penguins Surface in South America Reply with quote

Hundreds of Oil-Covered Penguins Surface in South America
By Robin Lloyd, LiveScience Senior Editor

posted: 27 July 2007 04:17 pm ET

Hundreds of oil-covered Magellanic penguins have surfaced off the Atlantic coast of South America in the past few weeks, according to an animal welfare organization.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 30, 2007 2:26 pm    Post subject: Oil spill clean-up agents threaten coral reefs Reply with quote

Oil spill clean-up agents threaten coral reefs

30 July 2007

Environmental Science & Technology

In a setback for efforts to protect endangered coral reefs from oil spills, researchers in Israel report that oil dispersants — the best tool for treating oil spills in tropical areas —are significantly more toxic to coral than the oil they are used to clean up. Their study, which urges caution in the use of these materials, is scheduled for the August 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

Called the ‘rainforests of the sea,’ coral reefs are an endangered ecosystem and are disappearing at an alarming rate due to numerous threats, including over-fishing, global warming and pollution, particularly oil spills. Besides hosting a rich diversity of marine organisms, these habitats are also potential sources of life-saving medicines and food for humans. Scientists looking for better ways to protect this important habitat have recently focused on the environmental impact of oil dispersants, detergents used break down oil spills into smaller, less harmful droplets.

In the new report, Shai Shafir and colleagues evaluated the effects of both crude oil and six commercial oil dispersants under laboratory conditions on the growth and survival of two important species of reef corals. The dispersants and dispersed oil droplets were significantly more toxic to the coral than the crude oil itself, the scientists report. The dispersants caused “significant harm,” including rapid, widespread death and delay in growth rates, to the coral colonies tested even at doses recommended by the manufacturers, they add.

“Decision-making authorities should carefully consider these results when evaluating possible use of oil dispersants as a mitigation tool against oil pollution near coral reef areas,” the report said.

“Short and Long Term Toxicity of Crude Oil and Oil Dispersants to Two Representative Coral Species”


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 10:35 am    Post subject: Slick Death: Oil-spill treatment kills coral Reply with quote

Week of Aug. 4, 2007; Vol. 172, No. 5 , p. 67

Slick Death: Oil-spill treatment kills coral
Carolyn Barry

Chemicals used to disperse marine oil slicks may harm corals more than the oil itself does, according to a new study. The finding suggests that chemical dispersants should be used near reefs only as a last resort, when oil approaches a shoreline where it might devastate wildlife and plants for decades.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 14, 2007 2:26 pm    Post subject: Prolonged respiratory problems for oil spill clean-up volunt Reply with quote

American Thoracic Society
14 September 2007

Prolonged respiratory problems for oil spill clean-up volunteers

Workers and volunteers who helped in the clean-up effort after the 2002 Prestige oil spill off the Galician coast of Spain exhibit prolonged respiratory symptoms resulting from their exposure, say researchers from Spain in the first study to examine the long-term effects of such exposures on workers’ respiratory health.

The findings were reported in the second issue for September of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, published by the American Thoracic Society.

In November 2002, the oil taker Prestige sank off the northwestern coast of Spain, spilling about 67,000 tons of oil that contaminated more than 1,000 kilometers of coastline. More than 100,000 workers and volunteers participated in the clean-up effort. During the first few weeks, clean-up work was done mainly by local fishermen and their families. That initial period was characterized by an “improvisational approach” and a lack of personal protective equipment, according to the study.

Between January 2004 and February 2005, more than two years after the initial disaster, the researchers administered a questionnaire to determine the long-term implications of the clean-up participation on the population of local fishermen who were most directly affected by the disaster. The questionnaire, which could be self-administered or completed through a telephone interview, assessed the fishermen’s respiratory problems, use of medication for respiratory problems, and their beliefs and level of anxiety and about the health effects of the spill.

Roughly one-third of the nearly 7,000 respondents were women, who were primarily engaged in shellfish farming. Most of the respondents— more than half of the women, and two-thirds of the men— had directly participated in the clean-up efforts for at least one day, most during the first seven weeks of the spill.

“Prevalence rates of lower and upper respiratory tract symptoms were significantly higher in fishermen who had participated in clean-up activities,” wrote Francisco Pozo-Rodriguez, M.D., lead investigator of the study.

Overall, the researchers said, clean-up workers were 1.7 times more likely than others to experience lower respiratory tract symptoms. Men who participated in clean-up were twice as likely as those who didn’t to have experienced chronic cough or phlegm or asthma in the past year; female clean-up workers were 1.7 times more likely than others to chronic phlegm, and 1.6 times as likely to experience nasal symptoms. Excluding workers who reported anxiety or who believed that their health was adversely affected by the spill, the researchers found that the differences in respiratory symptoms decreased slightly but remained significant.

Importantly, they found that the increased prevalence of upper- and lower-respiratory tract symptoms persisted for more than a year following the last clean-up activity, but while “still significant when more than 20 months had elapsed,” rates did show eventual decline, suggesting that the damage may be in part reversible.

There was no association between performing clean-up work and having diagnosed respiratory conditions, such as asthma, leading the investigators to speculate that warnings from health authorities may have discouraged people with known respiratory conditions from participating in the clean up. This self-selection among clean-up participants, the so-called healthy worker effect, “may have led to an underestimation of the risk estimates,” wrote Dr. Pozo-Rodriguez.

“To our knowledge, no previous study has explored long-term respiratory effects in clean-up workers of other oil spills. Our findings suggest that participation in clean-up work of oil spills may result in prolonged adverse respiratory health effects 1-2 years after exposure,” he continued. “Increasing awareness of the potential chronic respiratory effects among clean up workers of future oil spills, in combination with appropriate hygiene regulations, is strongly recommended.”

The cross-sectional design of the study and possible recall bias of the questionnaire’s respondents leaves the question of reversibility question an open line of inquiry. To address this possibility, the investigators identified a cohort of prospective subjects to follow for further evaluation of the time-dependent nature of the effects.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 13, 2007 1:43 pm    Post subject: Saving Birds After Oil Spills: Feels Good, Costs Fortune, Ac Reply with quote

Saving Birds After Oil Spills: Feels Good, Costs Fortune, Accomplishes Little
By Benjamin Radford, LiveScience's Bad Science Columnist

posted: 13 November 2007 12:01 pm ET

When a container ship laden with bunker fuel rammed into a Bay Bridge tower near San Francisco last week, it released nearly 60,000 gallons into the bay. The oil has contaminated at least two dozen beaches, leaving a gunky film on everything from trees to rocks to wildlife.

Results of the spill can be seen all over, but for many, the damage is most visible in the pitiful birds coated in oily slime . Most of the affected fowl are ducks, and ordinary citizens have turned out in droves to help clean the poor animals.

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PostPosted: Thu Dec 06, 2007 6:34 pm    Post subject: MIT creates new oil-repelling material Reply with quote

Massachusetts Institute of Technology
6 December 2007

MIT creates new oil-repelling material

Many applications in aviation, more
CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--MIT engineers have designed the first simple process for manufacturing materials that strongly repel oils. The material, which can be applied as a flexible surface coating, could have applications in aviation, space travel and hazardous waste cleanup.

For example, the material could be used to help protect parts of airplanes or rockets that are vulnerable to damage from being soaked in fuel, such as rubber gaskets and o-rings.

“These are vulnerable points in many aerospace applications” said Robert Cohen, the St. Laurent Professor of Chemical Engineering and an author of a paper on the work that will appear in the Dec. 7 issue of Science.

“It would be nice if you could spill gasoline on a fabric or a gasket or other surface and find that instead of spreading, it just rolled off,” Cohen said.

Creating a strongly oil-repelling, or “oleophobic” material, has been challenging for scientists, and there are no natural examples of such a material.

“Nature has developed a lot of methods for waterproofing, but not so much oil-proofing,” said Gareth McKinley, MIT School of Engineering Professor of Teaching Innovation in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the research team. “The conventional wisdom was that it couldn't be done on a large scale without very special lithographic processes.”

The tendency of oils and other hydrocarbons to spread out over surfaces is due to their very low surface tension (a measure of the attraction between molecules of the same substance).

Water, on the other hand, has a very high surface tension and tends to form droplets. For example, beads of water appear on a freshly waxed car (however, over a period of time, oil and grease contaminate the surface and the repellency fades). That difference in surface tension also explains why water will roll off the feathers of a duck, but a duck coated in oil must be washed with soap to remove it.

The MIT team overcame the surface-tension problem by designing a material composed of specially prepared microfibers that essentially cushion droplets of liquid, allowing them to sit, intact, just above the material's surface.

When oil droplets land on the material, which resembles a thin fabric or tissue paper, they rest atop the fibers and pockets of air trapped between the fibers. The large contact angle between the droplet and the fibers prevents the liquid from touching the bottom of the surface and wetting it.

The microfibers are a blend of a specially synthesized molecule called fluoroPOSS, which has an extremely low surface energy, and a common polymer. They can be readily deposited onto many types of surfaces, including metal, glass, plastic and even biological surfaces such as plant leaves, using a process known as electrospinning.

The researchers have also developed some dimensionless design parameters that can predict how stable the oleophobicity or oil-resistance between a particular liquid and a surface will be. These design equations are based on structural considerations, particularly the re-entrant nature (or concavity) of the surface roughness, and on three other factors: the liquid's surface tension, the spacing of the fibers, and the contact angle between the liquid and a flat surface.

Using these relationships, the researchers can design fiber mats that are optimized to repel different hydrocarbons. They have already created a non-woven fabric that can separate water and octane (jet fuel), which they believe could be useful for hazardous waste cleanup.

The Air Force, which funded the research and developed the fluoroPOSS molecules, is interested in using the new material to protect components of airplanes and rockets from jet fuel.

Lead author of the paper is Anish Tuteja, a postdoctoral associate in MIT's Department of Chemical Engineering. Other MIT authors are Wonjae Choi, graduate student in mechanical engineering, Minglin Ma, graduate student in chemical engineering, and Gregory Rutledge, professor of chemical engineering. Joseph Mabry and Sarah Mazzella of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base are also authors on the paper.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 3:38 pm    Post subject: Making gas out of crude oil Reply with quote

University of Calgary
12 December 2007

Making gas out of crude oil

Biological process of heavy oil degradation by microbes detailed by researchers
An international team that includes University of Calgary scientists has shown how crude oil in oil deposits around the world – including in Alberta’s oil sands – are naturally broken down by microbes in the reservoir.

Their discovery – published in the prestigious science journal Nature – could revolutionize heavy oil and oil sands production by leading to more energy-efficient, environmentally friendly ways to produce this valuable resource.

Understanding how crude oil biodegrades into methane, or natural gas, opens the door to being able to recover the clean-burning methane directly from deeply buried, or in situ, oil sands deposits, says Steve Larter, U of C petroleum geologist in the Department of Geoscience who headed the Calgary contingent of the research team.

The oil sands industry would no longer have to use costly and polluting thermal, or heat-based, processes (such as injecting steam into reservoirs) to loosen the tar-like bitumen so it flows into wells and can be pumped to the surface.

“The main thing is you’d be recovering a much cleaner fuel,” says Larter, Canada Research Chair in Petroleum Geology. “Methane is, per energy unit, a much lower carbon dioxide emitter than bitumen. Also, you wouldn’t need all the upgrading facilities and piping on the surface.”

Biodegradation of crude oil into heavy oil in petroleum reservoirs is a problem worldwide for the petroleum industry. The natural process, caused by bacteria that consume the oil, makes the oil viscous, or thick, and contaminates it with pollutants such as sulphur. This makes recovering and refining heavy oil difficult and costly.

Some studies have suggested that biodegradation could by caused by aerobic bacteria, which use oxygen. But Larter and colleagues from the U of C, University of Newcastle in the U.K., and Norsk Hydro Oil & Energy in Norway, report in Nature that the dominant process is, in fact, fermentation. It is caused by anaerobic bacteria that live in oil reservoirs and don’t use oxygen.

“This is the main process that’s occurring all over the Earth, in any oil reservoir where you’ve got biodegradation,” Larter says.

Using a combination of microbiological studies, laboratory experiments and oilfield case studies, the team demonstrated the anaerobic degradation of hydrocarbons to produce methane. The findings offer the potential of ‘feeding’ the microbes and rapidly accelerating the breaking down of the oil into methane.

“Instead of 10 million years, we want to do it 10 years,” Larter says. “We think it’s possible. We can do it in the laboratory. The question is: can we do it in a reservoir"”

Doing so would revolutionize the heavy oil/oil sands industry, which now manages to recover only about 17 per cent of a resource that consists of six trillion barrels worldwide. Oil sands companies would be able to recover only the clean-burning natural gas, leaving the hard-to-handle bitumen and contaminants deep underground.

Understanding biodegradation also provides an immediate tool for predicting where the less-biodegraded oil is located in reservoirs, enabling companies to increase recovery by targeting higher-quality oil. “It gives us a better understanding of why the fluid properties are varying within the reservoir,” Larter says. “That will help us with thermal recovery processes such as SAGD (steam-assisted gravity drainage).”

The research team also discovered an intermediate step in the biodegradation process. It involves a separate family of microbes that produce carbon dioxide and hydrogen from partly degraded oil, prior to it being turned into methane. This paves the way for using the microbes to capture this CO2 as methane, which could then be recycled as fuel in a closed-loop energy system. This would keep the CO2, a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming and climate change, out of the atmosphere.

The petroleum industry already has expressed interest in trying to accelerate biodegradation in a reservoir, Larter says. “It is likely there will be field tests by 2009.”
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 14, 2008 2:03 pm    Post subject: Seagull blood shows promise for monitoring pollutants from o Reply with quote

Seagull blood shows promise for monitoring pollutants from oil spills
14 January 2008
Environmental Science & Technology

Like the proverbial coal miners’ canary-in-the-cage, seagulls may become living sentinels to monitor oil pollution levels in marine environments, report scientists in Spain. Their study is scheduled for the Feb. 1 issue of ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology, a semi-monthly journal.

In the study, Alberto Velando and colleagues note that researchers have known for years that large oil spills can increase levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in marine environments. Studies have linked these compounds to cancer in humans. While oil spills quickly kill large numbers of seabirds and other animals, scientists do not fully understand the non-lethal biological effects of these spills, the Spanish researchers say.

The researchers measured PAH levels in the blood of Yellow-legged gulls living in the vicinity of the oil spill caused by the 2002 shipwreck of the Prestige, one of Europe’s largest oil spills. Gulls exposed to the oil showed twice the levels of PAHs in their blood than unexposed birds, even though these levels were measured 17 months after the initial spill, the researchers say. The findings “give support to the nondestructive use of seabirds as biomonitors of oil pollution in marine environments,” the article states. - MTS

ARTICLE #1 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE “Monitoring Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon Pollution in Marine Environment after the Prestige Oil Spill by Means of Seabird Blood Analysis”


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2008 9:42 am    Post subject: Oil magnets Reply with quote

Oil magnets
By Janet Raloff
July 25th, 2008

Imagine corralling an aquatic oil spill with a ring of magnets — and then dragging that magnetic fence to some convenient spot where the fuel can be sopped up. As far fetched as this idea may sound, materials scientists began work, this summer, on developing a technology to do just that.

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