I had the opportunity to visit Incinerox company in 2014 with the University of Salesiana, Quito in Ecuador, a national reputable company, for eliminating or reducing toxicity through incineration. Incinerox company in charge of the treatment of hazardous waste since 2000 that uses incineration machinery with a capacity of up to 12 tons of toxic products, and those machineries need a source of energy in order to reach a temperature between 3500 and 4000 Kcal / Kg for contaminated products “everything that goes in comes out in ashes”, the gases caused by the Combustion first pass through an activated carbon filter and bag filter for purification therefore before being released into the atmosphere. However, whilst this may seem to be an effective solution on the surface, I was intrigued to see the nature of firms conducting bioremediation under European legislation, one organisation that stood out was MicroGen Biotech in the Republic of Ireland. When compared to MicroGen Biotech, the 2 companies have the same goal of treating hydrocarbons and other toxic agents for the environment. On the one hand MicroGen Biotech uses microorganisms with a slow process for bioremediation and on the other Incinerox uses energy sources for its huge incineration furnaces but with they are effective and quick elimination of toxic products.
Unlike Incinerox, Dr. Xuemei Germaine 7 years ago (2012) establishes a more ecological and nature-friendly process where it is based on the alternative use of chemicals and incinerations, the method upon which he to found his MicroGen Biotech company with the aim of using microorganisms in soils contaminated by hydrocarbons and other toxic xenobiotics. Three years later (2015) the Irish government is interested in MicroGen Biotech and invests funds to cover its projects. Today MicroGen Biotech is one of the leaders that leads the market in bioremediation.
One of its largest projects was carried out in Ireland where, after the economic crisis and the industry fell between the 70s and 80s, these lands were abandoned and accumulated of toxic materials such as hydrocarbons (brownfield) and were unable to be used. Similarly to the process MicroGen adopted in Ireland, MicroGen Biotech has been established in China’s largest oil fields, with the purpose of cleaning toxic products such as PAH (Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons), and China being a quarter of the world’s largest BRIC economy can covert this process to a mass scale operation. MicroGen Biotech products have been a success both in Ireland and in China, they have been in charge of contaminated hydrocarbon soils where they analysed the predominant contaminate in the soil, take samples and perform ex-situ tests, controlling the artificial environment so that it becomes equal. natural, adding essential nutrients so that the consortia of microorganisms patented by MicroGen Biotech develop their exponential and stationary phase in order to biodegrade the contaminant. The results are eminent, the soil pH is analysed as well as the number of viable microbial populations. When it is known which microorganism is the most efficient, it is produced on large scales to be taken in-situ or to the source of contamination, then 18 months can reduce a contaminate from a concentration of 10,000 ppm to 50 ppm.
This bioremediation system could be available to all sectors affected by pollutants that have accumulated in soils and water. Being living organisms, its metabolism system is slow, which could modify its rate of absorption using different branches of the technological sciences, one of which could be CRISPR, a bacteria which can change the structure of the genes of an organism, allowing bioremediation.
Which decontamination process would you prefer a fast, efficient but with use of electricity, energy and gas emission, ultimately leading to an evitable cease of business under European legislation, or a slow process where it involves microorganisms that can produce gas or water as by-products and consequently ensures a company’s longevity in today’s economy?
Keep reading my future blogs to see the variety and developments in the field of bioremediation.