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Scholars Finetune Method of
Fixing Oil-Soaked Soil

Making Soil Fertile Again

Scholars Finetune Method of Fixing Oil-Soaked Soil

A news release by Rice University states that 98 percent of oil spills occur on land, with more than 25,000 spills a year reported to the Environmental Protection Agency. The picture above shows an oil spill clean-up in Coffeyville, Kan. on July 19, 2007.


Engineers from Rice University in Houston, Texas, in conjunction with scholars from the Universities of Jinan and Shandong in China, have improved upon the previously developed technique of pyrolysis, to facilitate a resurgence in oil-soaked soil's fertility.

In a Rice news article, professor of bioengineering Kyriacos Zygourakis states, "The key to retaining fertility is to preserve the soil's essential clays. Clays retain water, and if you raise the temperature too high, you basically destroy them." He continues by stating anything over 500 degrees Celsius, or 932 Fahrenheit, is too high.

After running tests, the researchers found that heating samples in a rotating drum at 788 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes, eliminated 99.9 percents of total petroleum hydrocarbons and 94.5 percent of polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons, "leaving the treated soils with roughly the same pollutant levels found in natural, uncontaminated soil," the news article states.

To ensure their findings were accurate, the team planted Simpson black-seeded lettuce in the treated soil and the plants showed robust growth over a 14 day period, proving the soil was healthy again.

The team's findings were published in a paper found in the American Chemical Society's journal Environmental Science and Technology. This research was sponsored by Chevron U.S.A., the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Shanghai Tongji Gao Tingyao Environmental Science and Technology Development Foundation, the Taishan Scholar Program and the National Institutes of Health.

Read the entire news article on Rice University's page HERE.



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