An Environmentally Friendly Solution for Oil Contaminated Soils

By Raymond Cheung ‘22

Figure 1. Nanoparticles synthesized from bioactive compounds significantly decontaminate oil contaminated soils.

Global oil production is on the rise; in 2017, a record of 92.6 million barrels were processed daily (1). Although the petroleum refining process is needed to refine crude oil into usable products, the process often generates significant amounts of oil sludge. These oil sludges contain toxic chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and as a result, are difficult to dispose of. While solutions have been presented to treat oil contaminated soil, such as land farming, composting and developing microorganisms, some of these solutions are not always feasible due to their monetary costs.

Recently, Biruck Desalegn and other researchers at the University of Newcastle discovered a method that can remove more than 90% of toxins from contaminated soils (2). The researchers conducted an experiment consisting of triplicates that were tested after 28 days of treatment. They used persulfate as an oxidizer to simulate for oil sludge contaminated soil. They created novel nanoparticles, such as GMP-nZVI, synthesized from zero-valent iron, a commonly used chemical for water filtration, and green mango peels. The nanoparticle broke down toxins in contaminated soil through chemical oxidation, leaving behind only the decontaminated materials and dissolved iron.

Remediating oil sludge contamination is a costly challenge that has profound effects on the ecosystem. As the volume of oil production increases, this will inevitably cause larger volumes of oil sludges, emphasizing the importance of finding a sustainable and effective solution. Although chemically synthesized nanoparticles can be effective, the newly developed nanoparticle GMP-nZVI presents a more sustainable and environment friendly solution for addressing the pollution caused by oil sludges.



  1. Global oil production from 1998 to 2017 (in 1,000 barrels per day). Statista (2017)  
  2. B. Desalegen, et. al., Green Mango Peel-Nanozerovalent Iron Activated Persulfate Oxidation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons in Oil Sludge Contaminated Soil. Environmental Technology & Innovation 11, 142-152 (2018). doi:  
  3. Image retrieved from:

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