Franco-German SME develops 'clean' solution to tackling oil spillages

May 19, 2003

Brussels, 16 May 2003

A French and German small enterprise has come up with an innovative solution to cleaning oil sodden sand.

The method developed by the BIOBILLES project involves collecting contaminated sand, and mixing it with a polymer carrier that not only separates the oil from the sand, but also forms new hydrocarbon-granulate compounds. Afterwards, cold water is added to the mixture, which causes the granulates to separate from the oil.

The result is that the oil is recovered in its original state, meaning that it can either be brought back to an oil refinery for processing or reused as fuel. In turn, the purified sand can also return to the environment without causing any danger to the ecosystem.

In an interview with CORDIS News, coordinator of the BIOBILLES project at the Minox group, Rolf Schneider, explained that the process not only tackles oil and sand, but a whole range of hydrocarbons and other mediums such as soil. He added that the BIOBILLES process is also one of a kind. 'This is the only project to date that uses a cold-process technique [...] All other competitors use a thermal procedure,' he said.

Mr Schneider went on to explain the reasons for implementing a 'cold process' rather than a thermal processing technology. Firstly, thermal technology is considered to be less energy efficient for the obvious reason that water needs to be heated in order to separate the oil from the sand. On top of this, thermal technology is known to give off additional pollutants and emissions, said Mr Schneider.

Secondly, the method developed by the BIOBILLES project is also said to be more environmentally friendly. The fact that no heat is generated in the BIOBILLES process ensures the micro organisms contained in the sand are unaffected by the process and can be returned intact to their environment.

Finally, with regard to water that is generated during the cold process, 'no waste water management needs to be developed in parallel to the BIOBILLES prototype, as the treatment water is continually filtered and remains totally clean,' Mr Schneider said, adding that the separated water is processed according to EU waste water standards. The BIOBILLES prototype has already been successfully put to use at a number of oil refineries. Mr Schneider mentioned that the Minox group is currently speaking with several potential partners in France who are interested in this innovative process. 'We are also in negotiations with the Hungarian authorities regarding the development of another machine, similar to BIOBILLES but on a larger scale,' said Mr Schneider.

For further information about the Minox group, please visit the following web address:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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