Need proof that oil-eating microbes actually work? Look no further than Mumbai, where scientists recently used the Oilzapper (a mixture of five bacterial strains and corn cobs) to munch on oil spilled on a kilometer-long stretch of beach. So far the technology has been successfully used to treat over 130,000 tons of contaminated soil.
Oilzapper, developed by The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), eats hydrocarbon compounds found in crude oil and sludge and turns them into CO2 and water. According to TERI, the Oilzapper is incredibly effective. In an interview, TERI scientist Banwari Lal explained, “In Awas village (Alibaug area) we first collected the oil in a pit and applied oil-zapper (the bacterial concoction). The entire area was cleaned in one day. Nothing remains except pure sand.”
Unfortunately, the Oilzapper hasn’t been used outside of India. But it’s certainly something we should keep in mind for future spills.