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Home Georgian Technologies New Phytoremediation Method for Cleaning of Oil-Polluted Soils

New Phytoremediation Method for Cleaning of Oil-Polluted Soils


Soil pollution by oil hydrocarbons is one of the most widely spread environmental contaminations which takes place in all oil producing, refinery and oil transporting countries. Current remediation methods are difficult and expensive, particularly, they have following lacks:

  • Ex situ methods:
    (1) The excavation of polluted soils, their transporta¬tion to remediation site, treatment (biological or physical-chemical), and their transportation back are required.
    (2) After remediation the soil structure is destroyed, microflora changes, the soil productivity decreases.
  • In situ methods:
    (1) Phytoremediation with application of plants without microorganisms is slow and requires 1 or 2 growing seasons.
    (2) Bioremediation – application of microorganisms without plants, lacks the complete cleaning of polluted soil.

We have developed the biotechnology for solution of this problem, which combines application of selected plants and microorganisms guaranteeing complete remediation of oil polluted sites and long term protection of environment.

The method is based on the following mechanism:

  • Lipophilic molecules of oil hydrocarbons that contaminate soils in case of oil spill are difficultly absorbed by plants and undergo microbial degradation in soil.
  • Last process leads to formation of intermediates that are more toxic than initial hydrocarbons, but they can be easily absorbed by plants.
  • Therefore plants are capable of quick extraction of such compounds from soil. Final products of degradation in plants are non-toxic compounds, typical for living organisms.

Main stages of new technology:

  • Preliminary characterization of polluted site for assessment of type, level and depth of soil pollution, and of existing microflora.
  • In situ treatment of polluted site by introduction of selected microorganisms in soil.
  • Planting of selected plants for complete remediation of contaminated soil.

The effectiveness of developed method is verified by several model experiments. As a result of 1.5 month application 3x decontamination of oil-polluted soil is achieved (Fig.1).

Innovative Aspect and Main Advantages

The innovation of developed method is joint and synergic application of both microorganisms’ and plants’ ecological potential. This approach allows us to clean oil polluted soils more intensively and completely than current remediation methods do.

Advantages of new phytoremediation method are:

  • Ecological safety
    – Contaminants undergo degradation to standard cell metabolites (non-toxic natural compounds);
    – Maintaining of soil structure in natural conditions.
  • Increase of remediation efficiency
    – The joint action of microorganisms and plants enables full degradation of pollutants and higher speed of cleaning.
  • Landscape management and carbon dioxide assimilation.
  • Significantly lower cost of remediation
    – According to EPA, phytoremediation is 5-10 times cheaper as compared to existing non-biological technologies.

Areas of Application

Environmental technologies – cleaning of oil polluted soils.

Fig. 1 Decreases of Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) in different
polluted soils by plants and developed bacterial consortia
after 1.5 months of application.

Stage of Development

  • Plants and microorganisms with high oil hydrocarbons assimilating abilities have been determined.
  • Biochemical bases for remediation technology have been created.
  • Main technological regulations have been developed.
  • In model experiments the technological approaches have been laboratory tested and verified.

Contact Details

Durmishidze Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Contact Person: Prof. Tinatin Sadunishvili
Address: David Agmasheneblis kheivani, 10th km 0159 Tbilisi, Georgia
Tel/Fax: (+995 32) 52 0618
E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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