oil in the waters — science newsOctober 14, 1972
[In the late 1960s], the best way to clean the oil was to put straw on it and then pick up the oily straw by hand or with forks. Now the industry… has devised an arsenal of petroleum cleaning chemicals. Thin film chemicals can be used to bind the oil and thicken it… Chemicals are also available as absorbents. Still other chemicals… disperse the oil through the water. Other chemicals show promise as oil burning agents.
Chemicals are the norm today, but the future of oil cleanup technology may well be microbial. In recent years, researchers have shown that soil microbes break down some of the 2010 oil Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico (SN online: 06/26/15). And electric bacteria, which channel electricity through their thread-like bodies, could help the convert waste from oil consumers into fuel for microbesscientists reported (SN: 7/16/22 and 7/30/22, pg. 24). Microbial mops aren’t ready for prime time yet, so chemical dispersants, fire, and sponge-like adsorbents remain key tools in cleaning kits.