Oil spills on land result in countless tons of contaminated soil being discarded in a landfill, but what if there were a way to treat the spilled oil in a way that benefits the land and eliminates waste?
That’s the goal that Targa Resources, a North Dakota-based oil and gas services company, is working toward becoming a reality with a bioremediation system it has developed for oil spills.
According to the Bismarck Tribune, Targa has recently completed a bioremediation project on the Fort Berthold Tribal Reservation, which isn’t under the same state and federal regulatory jurisdiction as non-tribal land. The company treated an oil spill released from a pipeline that contaminated soil on the reservation.
“When you spill hydrocarbon, there are naturally occurring microbes — bugs — that immediately start to eat it,” David McQuade, Targa’s senior environmental director, told the Bismarck Tribune. “I’m adding a bunch more bugs that want to eat it at a faster rate.”
The “bugs” Mr. McQuade referred to devour spilled hydrocarbons and convert them to carbon dioxide, water, and organic matter. According to Mr. McQuade, the treatment renders the soil extremely fertile, potentially even more fertile than it was before the oil spill.
To accelerate the remediation process on oil spills, the contaminated soil is spread out over an area to a depth of eight inches. Crews periodically churn the soil to aerate it and make sure the microbes get enough oxygen.
Targa’s oil spill remediation project at the Fort Berthold Reservation reduced the concentration of hydrocarbons in the soil to a level below North Dakota’s Department of Health standard of 100 milligrams per kilogram.
The company is trying to get state regulators to streamline the permitting process so that energy companies won’t continue to discard soil from oil spill contamination sites.
“Let’s reuse this instead of just wasting it,” Mr. McQuade told the Bismarck Tribune. “You can’t get it back out of the landfill once it’s there.”