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This Special Sawdust Is Designed To Clean Up Oil Spills In The Arctic

A new weapon to mitigate that problem might come from an odd source: Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have modified sawdust to deal with some of the particular challenges of cleaning up oil spills in the Arctic, where ice can push oil below the water surface, and rough waves can spread the oil out.

Oil Spill Clean up techniques on the Arctic Ocean

“The material is incredibly buoyant,” says Pacific Northwest National Laboratory microbiologist George Bonheyo. “It will float for months, in fact. That also helps keep the oil right at the surface of the water where it’s easier to treat as a consequence.”

With a thin layer of sawdust, it’s possible to quickly absorb oil in a spill. By adding microorganisms to the new product, it also becomes a bioremediation tool: the organisms eat the oil, cleaning it up.

The material could also be skimmed off the water, though that’s more challenging to do in the Arctic. In the case of a large spill, workers may use another approach–burning the oil-soaked sawdust.

Sorbent Use Oil Spill Response

If you’re looking for more detailed information on the use of Sorbent Materials in Oil Spill Response, the ITOPF – The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federated Limited published a twelve page technical information paper as a PDF. While this post is not specifically about sawdust, it is a great follow-up article to our news post about using sawdust for marine oil spill response. of Sorbent Materials in Oil Spill Response. Download PDF…


The article provides a good introduction to sorbents and their application, specification and obstacles for use in oil spill response including sawdust.

Sawdust Based Advance in Marine Oil Spill Clean-up

News about this exciting new application for sawdust started hitting the papers in December, 2016 about Pacific Northwest National Laboratory’s work in using sawdust for cold water marine oil spill response.

Science Daily posted quite a comprehensive article on the breakthrough. Northwest National Laboratory “Sawdust reinvented into super sponge for oil spills.”Read more…

Given our abundant northern oil resources, the fact that we’re surrounded by cold and arctic waters and with the longest coastline in the world, this seems like good news for Canadians and the oil industry. It’s also another great application for sawdust.

For additional information, posted a related article worth reviewing. at the Department of Energy’s have modified sawdust to clean up Arctic oil spills, where ice can push oil below the water surface. Read more…


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