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Engineering » Environmental Engineering » "Biodegradation - Engineering and Technology", book edited by Rolando Chamy and Francisca Rosenkranz, ISBN 978-953-51-1153-5, Published: June 14, 2013 under CC BY 3.0 license. © The Author(s).

Chapter 15

Emerging Trend in Natural Resource Utilization for Bioremediation of Oil — Based Drilling Wastes in Nigeria

By Iheoma M. Adekunle, Augustine O. O. Igbuku, Oke Oguns and Philip D. Shekwolo
DOI: 10.5772/56526

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Application model of CNB-Tech remediation method
Figure 1. Application model of CNB-Tech remediation method
Infrared spectrum of Bioprimer, a CNB-Tech remediation product
Figure 2. Infrared spectrum of Bioprimer, a CNB-Tech remediation product
Infrared spectrum of Biozator, a CNB-Tech remediation product
Figure 3. Infrared spectrum of Biozator, a CNB-Tech remediation product
Percentage distribution of individual components of PAH relative to the total concentration
Figure 4. Percentage distribution of individual components of PAH relative to the total concentration
Percentage distribution of individual components relative to the total BTEX concentration
Figure 5. Percentage distribution of individual components relative to the total BTEX concentration
Graph showing concentrations of degraded TPH relative to the initial concentration
Figure 6. Graph showing concentrations of degraded TPH relative to the initial concentration
Percentage degradation of hydrocarbon compounds in the drilling wastes by applied CNB-Tech products
Figure 7. Percentage degradation of hydrocarbon compounds in the drilling wastes by applied CNB-Tech products
Photographs showing the materials before and after bioremediation by the application of CNB-Tech products
Figure 8. Photographs showing the materials before and after bioremediation by the application of CNB-Tech products
Reductions in some inorganic constituents of the drilling materials treated by CNB-Tech
Figure 9. Reductions in some inorganic constituents of the drilling materials treated by CNB-Tech
Nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium status before and after treatment as obtained by the USA based laboratory
Figure 10. Nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium status before and after treatment as obtained by the USA based laboratory
Heterotrophic plate count digital photographs for untreated OBM-DC (1) (before remediation) and replicates (2, 3, 4), after remediation using CNB-Tech method
Figure 11. Heterotrophic plate count digital photographs for untreated OBM-DC (1) (before remediation) and replicates (2, 3, 4), after remediation using CNB-Tech method
Microbial activity at 48 –hr and 96-hr counts for untreated oil-based drilling wastes and CNB-Tech remediated samples
Figure 12. Microbial activity at 48 –hr and 96-hr counts for untreated oil-based drilling wastes and CNB-Tech remediated samples
Germinated maize seedlings growing in treated media with picture taken on day 4 of growth
Figure 13. Germinated maize seedlings growing in treated media with picture taken on day 4 of growth
A cross section of project technical staff preparing the treated drilling wastes (OBM-DC) for use as plant growth media
Figure 14. A cross section of project technical staff preparing the treated drilling wastes (OBM-DC) for use as plant growth media
Remediated drilling wastes as plant growth medium for Fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis) and cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz)
Figure 15. Remediated drilling wastes as plant growth medium for Fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis) and cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz)
Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on height of maize, including a picture of the stock leachate contained in a beaker
Figure 16. Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on height of maize, including a picture of the stock leachate contained in a beaker
Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on root length of maize
Figure 17. Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on root length of maize
Relationship between plant vegetative growth and serial dilution of process fluid (leachate) generated during the remediation project
Figure 18. Relationship between plant vegetative growth and serial dilution of process fluid (leachate) generated during the remediation project
Potential utility of end - products from bioremediation using CNB-Tech products
Figure 19. Potential utility of end - products from bioremediation using CNB-Tech products

Emerging Trend in Natural Resource Utilization for Bioremediation of Oil — Based Drilling Wastes in Nigeria

Iheoma M. Adekunle1, Augustine O. O. Igbuku2, Oke Oguns3 and Philip D. Shekwolo2

1. Introduction

1.1. Background

Nigeria is a country endowed with diverse mineral and natural resources among which is petroleum, a pivot to the national economy and sustainable development. In the past five decades, petroleum exploration and production activities have brought national economic boom but not without some aches. Acts of sabotage such as crude oil theft, pipeline bunkering and artisanal refining added to accidental spills and operational failures all combine to aggravate the oil-related aches. Oil spill into the environment, stemming from either acts of sabotage or operational failures, ultimately lead to environmental pollution with petroleum hydrocarbons [1, 2]. Petroleum mining or drilling is another factor to petroleum hydrocarbons in the environment. Most of the adverse impacts of oil spill/ petroleum hydrocarbons in the environment are experienced in the oil bearing communities, located in the Niger Delta region of the country; prominent among them being the Ogoni land pollution incidence reported by United Nations Environment Programme [1]. Petroleum exploration and production activities are strongly associated with drilling operations for oil mining. Accordingly, the extraction of petroleum resources from the earth is achieved by drilling activities. A developed drilling concept, irrespective of technological advancement, has its technical challenges, process requirements and environmental issues [3]. Drilling fluids, also referred to as drilling muds are used to enhance drilling activities via suspension of cuttings, pressure control, stabilization of exposed rocks, provision of buoyancy, cooling and lubricating.

Types of drilling fluids ( muds): There are basically two categories of drilling fluids namely (i) aqueous drilling muds or water based muds (WBMs), which consist of fresh or salt water containing a weighting agent, usually barite (BaSO4), clay or organic polymers and various inorganic salts, inert solids, and organic additives to modify the physical properties of the mud so that it functions optimally and (ii) non-aqueous drilling fluids (NADFs), which comprise all non-water dispersible base fluids such as oil based muds (OBMs) and synthetic based muds (SBMs) [2]. Comparative evaluation of oil based muds and water based muds shows that OBMs offer advantages over WBMs for the reasons that [3]:

  • OBMs are more suitable to drill sensitive shells, allowing drilling faster than the WBMs, providing excellent shale stability

  • they are more adequate to drill formulations where bottom hole temperatures exceed WBMs tolerance, especially in the presence of contaminants such as water, gases, cement, salt and temperature up to 550F

  • OBMs resist formation salt leach out

  • they are characterized by thin filter cakes and the friction between the pipe and wellbore is minimized, thus, reducing the risk of differential sticking and are especially suited for highly deviated and horizontal wells

  • the drill of low pore pressure formations is easily accomplished, since mud weight can be maintained at a weight less than that of water (as low as 7.5 ppg)

  • corrosion of pipe is controlled since oil is the external phase and coats the pipe. The oils are non-conductors and the additives are thermally stable, hence, do not form corrosive products

  • bacteria do not thrive long in OBMs

  • there is the possibility of using OBMs over and over again and can be stored over long periods of time since bacterial growth is suppressed

  • OBM packer fluids are designed to be stable over long periods of time even when exposed to high temperature and provide long-term stable packers since additives are extremely temperature stable. Properly designed, such packer fluids can suspend weighting materials over long periods of times.

In other words, regarding shale stability, penetration rate, high temperatures, drilling salts, lubrication, low pore pressure formations, corrosion control, re-use and packer fluids, OBMs offer advantages over WBMs. It is therefore, obvious that though WBMs are more environmentally benign, they are only satisfactory for less demanding drilling of conventional vertical wells at medium depths, whereas OBMs are more suited for greater depths or in directional or horizontal drillings, which exert greater stress on drilling apparatus. As a result, OBMs are more frequently used in petroleum industries for drilling purposes. The composition of OBMs include: petroleum base fluid, weighting agent and other chemical additives.

Drill cuttings: During drilling, particles of crushed rocks produced by the grinding action of the drill bit as it penetrates the earth are referred to as drill cuttings (DC). DCs are, therefore, a mixture of rocks and particulates released from geological formulations in the drill holes made for crude oil drilling and are usually coated with the drilling fluid. Consequently, DCs are largely influenced by the chemical composition of drilling muds [2, 4].

The resultant spent OBM and drill cuttings (drilling wastes) consist of hydrocarbons, water, soils, heavy metals and water soluble salts such as chlorides and sulphates [3, 4]. Drilling wastes, which are toxic due to the presence of hydrocarbons, heavy metals and other chemical additives, if not properly treated before disposal, pose serious environmental hazards and risk to public health. Sequel to these, best practices in the management of drilling wastes cannot be over emphasized.

1.2. Health and environmental effects associated with drilling wastes

Health effects linked to drilling wastes are traceable to the basic components such as the drilling fluid and additives:

Health effects associated with drilling fluids: These health effects are attributed to the physical and chemical properties of the drilling fluids. In oil based drilling wastes, the base oil stem from petroleum stream such as crude oil, diesel (gasoil) and kerosene, which cause skin irritation. Consequently, the most commonly observed health effect associated with drilling fluids is skin irritation. Other effects include headache, nausea, eye irritation and coughing. Routes of exposure in human are dermal, inhalation, oral and some other miscellaneous routes. On exposure to drilling fluid, petroleum hydrocarbons tend to remove natural fat from the skin, which results in skin drying and cracking. These conditions allow compounds to permeate through the skin leading to irritation and dermatitis. Susceptibility to these health effects varies with individual resistance capacity and conditions of poor personal/environmental hygiene. High aromatic content fluids, especially diesel fuel contain significant levels of carcinogenic polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Diesel fuels may also be genotoxic due to high proportions of 3-7 ring PAH [2]. Skin-painting studies in mice showed that, irrespective of the level of PAH, long-term dermal exposure to diesel fuels can cause skin tumours, an effect attributed to chronic skin irritation. In humans, chronic irritation may cause small areas of the skin to thicken, eventually forming rough wart-like growths, which may become malignant. Health effects from chronic exposure to PAHs may include cataracts, kidney damage, liver damage and jaundice. Naphthalene, a specific PAH, can cause the breakdown of red blood cells, if inhaled or ingested in large amounts. Animals exposed to levels of some PAHs over long periods in laboratory studies, developed lung cancer from inhalation and stomach cancer from ingesting PAHs in food [2].

Other hydrocarbon constituents of drilling fluids are the mono-aromatics popularly referred to as BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene). BTEX compounds are very volatile, hence, will readily evaporate in warm/hot climates of tropical regions, resulting in higher concentrations in the vapor phase. As a result, there is the possibility of exposure to human via inhalation. Exposure to high concentrations of these hydrocarbons via inhalation may result in hydrocarbon induced neurotoxicity, a non-specific effect resulting in headache, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, lack of coordination, problems with attention and memory, gait disturbances and narcosis [2].

Health effects associated with additives: In addition to the irritancy of the drilling fluid hydrocarbon constituents, several drilling fluid additives may also have irritant, corrosive or sensitizing properties. Various additives include emulsion stabilizers, pH adjusters, wetting agents, viscosifiers and fluid-loss reducing agents. For instance, calcium chloride (CaCl2) has irritant properties and emulsifiers (such as polyamine) have been associated with sensitizing properties [3]. Specific chemical additives vary with locations.

1.2.1. Environmental effects associated with drilling wastes

Apart from health effects, environmental hazards associated with drilling wastes include land, water and air pollution [5]:

  1. Land pollution: Farming is the major land use system in Nigeria, especially in the Niger Delta region [1]. The most significant in this aspect of environmental pollution in Nigeria is thus farmland pollution. Consequences include alteration in soil physical, biological and chemical properties, loss of soil fertility, stunted plant growth and reduced crop productivity. These lead to reduced food security and compromised food safety.

  2. Aquatic pollution: Large percentage of the oil spill gets spread over the surface of the aquatic system resulting in anaerobic environment in the water, below the surface. This leads to death of the natural flora and fauna where oxygen is the key element for their respiration; adversely affecting fishing profession [1]

  3. Air pollution: volatile organics such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene could have elevated concentrations in the air, leading to atmospheric pollution and consequent adverse environmental and health impacts.

Oil well drilling processes generate large volumes of drill cuttings and spent mud in the country. Drilling wastes, therefore, add to hazardous petroleum waste materials released in the environments of the Niger Delta region of the country [1, 6] and the management of drilling wastes is quite tasking. An environmentally friendly technique for the management of drilling wastes is necessary in all offshore and onshore operations; from seismic surveys, drilling operations, field development and production to decommissioning. The physical and chemical properties of the drilling wastes influence their hazardous characteristics and environmental impact abilities, which in turn depend primarily on: (i) nature of impacted material, (ii) concentration of pollutant /amount of waste material after release (iii) recipient biotic community and (iv) exposure duration. Exposure that causes an immediate effect is called acute exposure while long-term exposure is called chronic exposure. Either acute or chronic exposure has negative impacts.

1.3. Contemporary treatment of drilling waste materials

Worldwide, contemporary drilling waste management options include re-use, offshore discharge, re-injection and onshore treatment and/or disposal [7]. Each treatment and or disposal option has its pros and cons as highlighted in the options (thermal technologies and bioremediation techniques) discussed.

1.3.1. Thermal treatment

As the name suggests, thermal technologies involve the use of high temperatures to reclaim hydrocarbon contaminated materials [8]. Thermal treatment is mostly used in treating organic compounds. Additional treatment may be necessary for metals and salts depending on the final fate of the wastes. Thermal treatment technologies are designed for a fixed land based installation; however, a few mobile units exist. Two commonly practiced thermal treatment technologies are thermal desorption and incineration methods. Thermal desorption method

Thermal desorption is an environmental remediation process that uses heat to increase the volatility of contaminants by the use of a series of equipment (desorber and oxidizer) such that the hydrocarbons and water are separated or removed from the solid matrix. It is normally carried out between the temperature range of 250-650oC. At these temperatures both the lighter and heavier hydrocarbons are removed and collected or thermally oxidized by further heating to a temperature of over 850oC. The resulting solid residue has essentially no residual hydrocarbons (having been oxidized), but does concentrate salts and heavy metals. Depending upon the success of process used, recovered hydrocarbons can be used as fuel or re-used as base fluid in the drilling fluid system and the resulting solid can be disposed of in a landfill or may be used in construction (of roads and bricks). Economical, operational and environmental implications of thermal desorption include:

  1. Effective removal and recovery of hydrocarbons from solids

  2. Possibility of recovering base fluid and end - product could be used for brick making

  3. Low potential for future liability

  4. Requires short time

  5. High cost of handling environmental issues

  6. Large volume of wastes is required to justify the cost of operation

  7. Requires tightly controlled process parameters

  8. High operating temperatures can lead to safety risks

  9. Requires several operators

  10. Heavy metals and salts are concentrated in residual solids

  11. Process water contains some emulsified oil

  12. Residue ash requires further treatment before disposal

  13. End product is sterile and can no longer support plant Life. Incineration method

Incineration involves (i) heating oil based mud and drill cuttings to a higher temperature range (1200-1500oC) in direct contact with combustion gases and (ii) oxidizing the hydrocarbons [8]. Solid/ash and vapor phases are generated. The gases produced from this operation may be passed through an oxidizer, wet scrubber, and bag house before being vented to the atmosphere. Stabilization of residual materials may be required prior to disposal to prevent constituents from leaching into the environment. Incineration of drilling wastes occurs in rotary kilns, which incinerate any waste regardless of size and composition. Incineration systems are designed to destroy only organic components of waste; however, most drilling wastes are non-exclusive in their content and therefore will contain both combustible organics and non-combustible inorganic materials. By destroying the organic fraction and converting it to carbon (IV) oxide and water vapor, incineration reduces waste volume. Inorganic components of wastes fed to an incinerator cannot be destroyed, only oxidized. The major inorganic materials are chemically classified as metals. Generally, these metals will exit the combustion process as oxides of the metals that enter. Economical, operational and environmental implications of incineration are as listed:

  1. Low potential for future liability

  2. High cost per volume

  3. Heat produced could be used for energy generation

  4. High energy cost

  5. Requires air pollution control equipment because of safety concerns

  6. At high temperatures, salts can form acid components

  7. Air emissions pose environmental concerns.

In line with best practices, for thermal technologies, there is need for proper placement of end product. Demonstration of sufficient compliance with current regulations and adequate safety measures to cater for the potential risks of exposure to high temperatures.

1.3.2. Bioremediation technique

Bioremediation technique relies on the ability of microorganisms (mostly combination of bacteria) to feed on the hydrocarbons (HCs) as substrate, converting them into carbon dioxide, water and harmless clean solids; and the ability of some of the HCs to biodegrade over time. But in most cases, the native microorganisms are often overwhelmed by the extent of the hydrocarbon contamination and thus would require external nutrients to boost (bio-stimulation) their activity and ability to take up the HCs at a faster rate. In other cases, the native microorganisms may be needing help from their kind or other species of micro-organism which are grown or inoculated (bio-augmentation) in the laboratory and then introduced in the habitat of the native micro-organisms. Bioremediation could be carried out at the site of contamination (in-situ bioremediation technique) or off the site of contamination (ex-situ bioremediation technique). Bioremediation technologies include land farming, use of bioreactors, biopiles and compost- based technologies. Economical, operational and environmental implications of conventional bioremediation technique [9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14] include:

  1. Relatively inexpensive

  2. Requires simple equipments and eliminates transportation cost as drill wastes could be treated on site

  3. Less capital but may be labour-intensive.

  4. Low maintenance cost; being a simple technology process that requires few machines, there are few delays due to equipment down-time

  5. Process is fairly flexible and can be used for most drill wastes including OBM, NADFs, previously extracted materials and newly drilled cuttings

  6. Proven technology

  7. Requires a considerable period of time to complete a process

  8. Appropriate bacteria and nutrient selection could be a daunting task

  9. In cases where bacteria are inoculated and brought on site, adaptability to their new environment may hamper their performance

  10. Minimal operation hazards

  11. Environmentally friendly: once the contaminants have been degraded, the microbial population reduces considerably as they have used up their food source

  12. Less impact on the environment as residue from process (TPH < 1%) may require no further treatment and could be used for agricultural purposes.

Recommended best practices for bioremediation technology include ensuring (i) proper initial physical, biological and chemical characterizations to determine extent of organic and inorganic contamination, (ii) required skill and persistence for the selection of several combinations of bacteria and nutrients that can provide the desired result (iii) proper periodic tillage to provide for proper aeration that facilitates degradation of the HCs and (iv) an accurate and appropriate TPH level check in between treatment process in order to monitor progress of the remediation process. Choice of waste management options typically considers local regulations, environmental assessment, cost/benefit analysis and the composition of the drilling wastes. The Department of Petroleum Resources [15] via the Environmental Guidelines and Standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGSPIN) stipulated guidelines on drill cuttings discharge for inland / near-shore and offshore deep water in order to minimize the adverse impact on the surrounding environment. These requirements call for an appropriate drill cuttings treatment prior to disposal in order to meet the stipulated conditions.

1.4. Review of emerging trend in the treatment of drilling waste materials in Nigeria

There are scientific evidences showing that drilling wastes generated in the country contain toxicants that are of environmental concerns. For instance, the reports of [16] on the determination of selected physical and chemical parameters including metals concentrations in a certain drill cutting dump site in the country. Results from their study showed that oil and grease on the surface and 20 feet around the waste dump area were above the specified limit [15]. There was also lack of plant growth noticed in the study, attributed to depletion of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium values below threshold levels for plant growth. The reports of [4] on hydrocarbon and some metal contents of drilling muds and cuttings generated during the drilling of Igbokoda onshore oil wells gave total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH), aliphatic hydrocarbon (AH) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) as generally exceeding stipulated limits by both national and international agencies. The studies of [17] on the compositional distribution and sources of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Nigerian oil-based drill-cuttings, showed that the total initial PAHs concentration of the drill cuttings was 223.52 mg/kg while the initial individual PAHs concentrations ranged from 1.67 to 70.7 mg/kg, dry weight, with a 90% predominance of the combustion-specific 3-ring PAHs.

The commonly employed remediation techniques for drilling wastes in Nigeria appear to be thermal technologies. However, due to economical, operational and environmental implications of these thermal technologies; search for more acceptable techniques commenced. There is scarcity of literature on the use of natural resource materials for the remediation of drilling wastes in Nigeria. The few literature resources showed that a large percentage is still at the bench-scale platform. For instance, [18] isolated Staphylococcus sp. from oil-contaminated soil that was treated with 1% drilling fluid base oil (HDF-2000). Their study revealed that Staphylococcus sp., is a strong primary utilizer of the base oil and has potential for application in bioremediation processes involving oil-based drilling fluids. On the other hand, the effectiveness of 2 bacterial isolates (Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa) in the restoration of oil-field drill-cuttings contaminated with polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons was studied by [19]. In that study, a mixture of 4 kg of drill cuttings and 0.67 kg of top-soil were fed into triplicate plastic reactors labeled A1 to A3, B1 to B3, C1 to C3 and O1 to O3. These were left quiescent for 7 days under ambient conditions, followed by the addition of 20 mL working solution of pure cultures of Bacillus sp and Pseudomonas sp (each of cell density 7.6 x 1011 cfu/mL) to reactors A1 - A3 and B1 - B3 respectively. Another 20 mL working solution containing both cultures at cell density 1.5 x 1012 cfu/mL was added to reactors C1 - C3. The working solution was added to each reactor (excluding the controls, O1 - O3) every 2 weeks. Mixing and watering of the set-ups were carried out at 3 days interval under ambient temperature of 30oC for a period of 6 weeks. Results showed that the predominant 3-ring PAHs, which made up 90% w/w of the total PAHs concentration of 223.52 mg/kg, were degraded below detection and the 4-ring PAHs were reduced from 4 to 0.6% by Pseudomonas while Bacillus reduced 3 and 4-ring PAHs respectively to 0.2 and 0.8%. Their works revealed that Pseudomonas degraded 3 and 4-ring PAHs relatively better than Bacillus. Both strains of bacteria degraded 5 and 6-ring PAHs below detection limits. Furthermore within the 3-ring PAHs, each of the strains of bacteria reduced phenanthrene to approximately 0.2%, whereas both degraded homologues acenaphthylene, acenaphthene and fluorene as well as anthracene below detection limits. For 4-ring PAHs, Pseudomonas degraded fluoranthene and benzo[a]anthracene. Bacillus also degraded benzo[a]anthracene below detection limits. Pseudomonas was able to reduce pyrene and chrysene to 0.3 and 0.2% respectively; whereas Bacillus reduced fluoranthene, pyrene and chrysene to 0.1, 0.01 and 0.4% respectively. However, treatment with the mixed culture resulted in limited degradation of 5-ring PAHs particularly in the fourth week, which was attributed to the phenomena of co-metabolism and inhibition.

The works of [20] compared the potentials of bio-augmentation and conventional composting as bioremediation technologies for the removal of PAHs from oil-field drill-cuttings. From a mud-pit, close to a just-completed crude-oil well in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, 4000 g of drill cuttings was obtained and homogenized with 667 g of top-soil (to serve as microbes carrier) in three separate reactors (A, B and C). The bio-augmentation of indigenous bacteria in the mix was done by adding to reactors A and B a 20-mL working solution (containing 7.6x1011 cfu/mL) of pure culture of Bacillus and Pseudomonas, respectively, while a 20-mL working solution (containing 1.5x1012 cfu/mL) of the mixed culture of Bacillus and Pseudomonas was added to reactor C. The bio-preparation was added to each reactor (excluding the control) every two weeks for six weeks. The composting experiment was conducted in a 10-litre reactor in which 4000 g of drill cuttings, 920 g of topsoil and 154 g of farmyard manure and poultry droppings were homogenized. Mixing and watering of the set-ups were carried out at 3 days interval under ambient temperature over a period of six weeks. Results showed that initial individual PAHs concentrations in the drill cuttings ranged from 1.67 to 70.7 mg/kg dry weight, with a predominance of combustion-specific 3-ring PAHs (representing 90% of a total initial PAHs. After the bioremediation exercise that lasted for 42 days, total PAHs in the drill cuttings were reduced from 223.52 to 4.25 mg/kg, representing a 98.1% reduction. Away from the use of microbial strains in the treatment of drilling wastes, a bench-scale investigation was carried out by [21] to demonstrate the efficacy of technique referred to as ‘Dispersion by Chemical Reaction (DCR) technology”.This particular method involved the use of hydrophobized calcium oxide (CaO) to form a dry, soil-like material that could be useful in construction works.

On the other hand, after the study on the response of four phytoplankton species in some sections of Nigeria coastal waters to crude oil in controlled ecosystem [22], that revealed the adverse impacts; a multidisciplinary environmental remediation research group (ERRG) was inaugurated with the mandate to embark on innovative, cutting-edge research and development (R & D) initiative, aimed at the development of an indigenous technology for an eco-friendly technique in the treatment of soils, sediments, sludge and drilling wastes polluted by petroleum hydrocarbons, using natural products of Nigeria origin. The goal of ERRG is to translate the technology from bench-scale to field scale and come out with on- the - shelf products that will find use for both onshore and offshore remediation works. The first phase of the R & D initiative was the exploration of the remediation potential of conventional composting technology based on the results from the works of [23]. A good start was the production of a scientifically formulated and classified compost bulk [24] that are potentially viable for environmental remediation projects [25] and able to biodegrade petroleum hydrocarbons embedded in soil and related matrices [26]. The next phase was to assess public acceptance of the principles of this technology, which culminated to the reports of [27] on population perception impact on value-added solid waste disposal in developing countries, a case study of Port Harcourt City. The feedstock utilized in product formulations in this emerging, indigenous and innovative technology is 100% biodegradable and very abundant in the Nigerian environment. Consequently, the technology has been categorized by stakeholders [27] as:

  1. eco-friendly environmental remediation technique

  2. waste to wealth initiative

  3. waste to resource initiative

  4. value-added waste management option

  5. a contribution to the promotion of local material development that has the potential for:

  • wealth creation

  • job creation

  • poverty alleviation

  • sound environmental management of hydrocarbon polluted wastes from the petroleum industries.

ERRG observed that either conventional composting technology or bioremediation via utilization of pure microbial isolates/strains has limitations in terms of serving the practical needs of the petroleum industry in Nigeria with regards to meeting (i) regulatory remediation targets at close – out of project and (ii) project delivery time. Subsequently, through series of bench-scale and screen house remediation investigations, products were formulated to enhance the speed of bioremediation process using nano-scale green catalysts, a technique that matured into Compost - based Nanotechnology in Bioremediation (CNB-Tech). The research group then subjected the CNB-Tech products to different scientific evaluations in order to ascertain (i) efficiency on biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in oily wastes such as crude oil impacted soils, sludge and drilling wastes (drill cuttings and oil-based mud) and (ii) environmental impacts with emphasis on soil quality. Published works on assessment and prognosis of products’ impact on soil quality include:

  1. Assessing the effect of bioremediation agent from local resource materials in Nigeria on soil pH [28]

  2. Impact of bioremediation formulation from Nigeria local resource materials on moisture contents for soils contaminated with petroleum [29]

  3. Assessing and forecasting the impact of bioremediation product derived from Nigeria local raw materials on electrical conductivity of soils contaminated with petroleum products [30]

  4. Soil temperature dynamics during bioremediation of petroleum products using remediation agent from Nigerian local resource materials [31].

Other works on CNB-Tech products’ evaluations including (i) effect on soil heavy metal dynamics and (ii) impact on soil microbial species population and diversity are being considered elsewhere for publication. Having recorded a huge success during the laboratory scale investigations where maximum of 4000g of sample bulk and freshly hydrocarbon contaminated soils (similar to the quantities used by other investigators) [19, 20] were treated, it became necessary to assess the efficiency of CNB-Tech products on waste materials with complex nature and higher degree of hydrocarbon pollution. This aspiration was realized in collaboration with the Remediation Department of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Port Harcourt, Nigeria through the University Liaison Team of SPDC. Sequel to this, pilot-scale projects were commissioned to evaluate the efficiency of CNB-Tech products on the degradation of hydrocarbon compounds in the following petroleum impacted materials:

  1. Hydrocarbon polluted clay soils from Ejama-Ebubu legacy site of SPDC

  2. Hydrocarbon polluted carbonized soil from Ejama-Ebubu legacy site of SPDC

  3. Hydrocarbon polluted sludge from Ejama-Ebubu legacy site of SPDC

  4. Oil-based mud and drill cuttings generated from SPDC operations.

Ejama Ebubu is one of SPDC’s legacy sites of up to 42 year long pollution as at the time of study in 2011 [1]. In this chapter, the efficacy of CNB-Tech products in the biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in oil-based drilling wastes (OBM-DC) is presented.

1.5. Research justification

The treatment of drilling wastes, especially OBM-DC in an environmentally sound manner is a challenging task due to the complex nature of the wastes. The most popular technique adopted for the treatment of OBM-DC, thermal desorption [15] has its accompanying environmental concerns. For instance, thermal treatment technologies are associated with prohibitive capital and operational cost implications, threatening environmental consequences in addition to high occupational hazards and generation of secondary waste stream that has to be treated at extra high cost before final disposal. Consequently, there is need for a pragmatic shift to seek alternative techniques that will address the need of the oil and gas sector in the management of drilling wastes in terms of remediation target delivery time and compliance to regulatory standards in Nigeria. Regulatory standards for close-out of remediation projects vary from one country to another and success factors of a given technology are dependent on indices such as:

  1. climatic conditions

  2. geographical characteristics of the location

  3. nature and complexity of contamination

  4. expected utility of the end-products of the remediation exercise

It then becomes evident that a successful remediation technology in one part of the globe may not necessarily be efficient in another region, pointing to the need to look inward for a more practical approach to solving the environmental challenges posed by petroleum hydrocarbon polluted waste streams in Nigeria [1]. Having run laboratory, bench- scale and screen-house remediation works using CNB-Tech products on fresh hydrocarbon contaminated soils, it became necessary to conduct pilot scale remediation works on more challenging waste streams such as weathered petroleum impacted soils, sludge, sediment, oil- based drilling mud and drill cuttings, hence this project.

1.6. Research objectives

The current study comprised three major objectives:

  1. to conduct a review on the emerging trends in the treatment and related studies for drilling wastes in Nigeria,

  2. to assess the efficiency of an indigenous and innovative application of compost - based nanotechnology in bioremediation (CNB-Tech) in biodegradation of hydrocarbons found in oil-based mud and drill cuttings; generated by a petroleum industry in Nigeria

  3. to investigate the beneficial utility of the remediation end-product for agricultural purpose (crop production), which is a major land use system in Nigeria.

2. Research methodology

The research methodologies employed in this study were:

  1. Literature review to provide an insight to the current and emerging trend in the treatment of drilling waste materials in the country and

  2. Practical, ex-situ, pilot scale execution of biodegradation of hydrocarbon compounds in oil-based mud and drill cuttings generated by an oil company in Nigeria using an indigenous and innovative biotechnological (CNB-Tech) approach anchored on the use of natural resource materials of Nigeria origin.

2.1. Pilot-scale remediation of oil-based mud and cuttings using CNB-Tech method

This study was carried out during the 2010/ 2011 Sabbatical Programme of the University Liaison Team of Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC); in conjunction with the Remediation Department of SPDC, Port-Harcourt, Nigeria. The indigenous remediation products (CNB-Tech products) prepared from cellulosic natural resource materials and biogenic nanopolymers of Nigeria origin used for this pilot remediation study, were denoted as (i) Ecorem, (ii) Bioprimer and (iii) Biozator. The last two products are solids that are transformed to the aqueous form before use while the first product is used in the solid form.

2.1.1. Project site description

The present pilot-scale project, for the purposes of adequate monitoring and efficient execution, was carried out in the Industrial Area of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Port Harcourt, Rivers State; known as “Shell IA”. The earmarked project area was a relatively isolated open green field within Shell IA and according to design, a temporary sheltered facility constructed to suit the project design was erected at the site and all necessary health and safety issues were taken into consideration. The sheltered project facility comprised of three major units:

  • Remediation execution section: where actual remediation took place

  • Phyto-analytical section: where effects on plant life were investigated

  • Mini- chemical laboratory: where necessary onsite chemical evaluations were conducted.

2.1.2. Pilot scale remediation procedure

The batch of oil-based mud and drill cuttings (OBM-DC) used in this study was generated from SPDC’s operations and supplied by one of the company’s certified vendors. During the conveyance procedure for OBM-DC, chain of custody document and waste stream tracking manifest was observed. Basic highlights for CNB-Tech application mode are outlined in Figure 1. Pretreatment involved recovery of free phase base fluid and stabilization involved modification of viscosity parameter.


Figure 1.

Application model of CNB-Tech remediation method

The biocell utilized for the remediation execution was designed by the research group, locally fabricated and lined with appropriate PVC materials. The procedures involved in the pilot remediation exercise are described as follows: A biocell of total dimension 15 m3 was sub-divided to smaller units of 3 m x 1 m x 1 m to allow for five times replication. Ecorem (a CNB-Tech product) was placed in the cells prior to loading of oil-based drilling mud and cutting (OBM-DC) that have been previously conditioned using intervention CNB-Tech products. As the initial microbial population in OBM-DC was less than 2.0 x 103 cfu/mL, Ecorem was introduced at 10% by weight of waste materials. Using mechanical means, OBM-DC and Ecorem were homogenized and allowed to incubate for about 12 to 24 hours in order to trigger and stimulate natural microbial activities. CNB-Tech products (Bioprimer and Biozator) were then applied to saturate the contents in the biocells, which was followed by homogenization using mechanical devices. A CNB-Tech product was added to the leachate (process fluid) to immobilize inorganic constituents (especially metals) before recycling the leachate into the treatment network in such a manner that no leachate was produced as a by-product for discharge into the environment. OBM-DC that received no treatment served as control. Both controls and test units were subjected to the same environmental conditions.

System maintenance and monitoring: During remediation, the system was monitored for relevant environmental factors such as moisture content (I), pH (II), nitrogen content (III) and temperature (IV) using standard procedures of gravimetry for I, probe method via a calibrated pH meter for II, Kjedahl method for III and calibrated mercury in glass thermometer for IV. These environmental factors were maintained at the required range. Remediation lasted for 33 days: 6 days for actual treatment and 27 days for material fallow and recovery periods during which the treated materials were conditioned with a CNB-Tech product (Ecorem) for use as plant growth medium.

In order to validate the efficacy of this technology, representative composites were sent to an International Laboratory (RespirTeK Consulting Laboratory and affiliate Laboratories based in the United States of America) for physical, chemical and microbial assessments. RespirTek is ISO/EC accredited and certified. Three other laboratories that are based in Nigeria (certified by national regulatory bodies) were also involved in sample collection and analyses. Laboratories that participated in this study were:

  1. Technology Partners International Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt - Nigeria

  2. Laser Engineering and Resources Consultants Limited, Port Harcourt- Nigeria

  3. Fugro Nigeria Limited, Port Harcourt, Nigeria

  4. RespirTek Consulting Laboratory - United States of America

2.2. Sample collection

At the end of the pilot remediation project using CNB-Tech products, treated materials were moved from the biocells and spread out on PVC impermeable membranes (each of dimension 650 cm for length and 248 cm for width), homogenized using mechanical means and air-dried with occasional homogenization of samples. The dry samples were returned into the biocells where further homogenization procedure was carried out. Sampling containers were sent by RespirTEK Consulting Laboratory, USA for their own use.

General sample collection: Using mechanical means, treated and dried samples in the cells were thoroughly homogenized for one week. In order to collect sample from a particular replicate, each replicate was subdivided into 4 equal parts; representative fractions were collected from the different parts and recombined to give a composite sample of 1kg.

BTEX sampling: Standard sampling kit for BTEX, sent by RespirTEK Consulting Laboratory, was utilized for the purpose. In this procedure, homogenized samples were collected from the cells using “Terra Core” sampling device. Using a 40 mL glass VOA vial containing appropriate preservatives and with the plunger seated in the handle, the Terra Core was pushed into freshly homogenized sample until the sample chamber was filled to the capacity of 5g. All sample particulates (debris) were removed from the outside of the Terra Core sampler and the sample plug was pushed into the mouth of the sampler. Excess soil that extended beyond the mouth of the sampler was removed. The plunger was then seated in the handle and rotated until it aligned with the slots in the body. The mouth of the sampler was placed into the 40 mL VOA vial containing the preservatives and sample extruded by pushing the plunger down. The lid was quickly placed back on the 40 mL VOA vial. It was ensured that when capping the 40 mL VOA vial, sample debris was removed from the top of the vial.

All samples were appropriately labeled and recorded in the chain of custody form before shipping to the USA laboratory by courier. Two Laboratories in Nigeria also collected samples for analyses, following standard procedures. The third laboratory in Nigeria was only involved in the analysis of materials using infrared and UV-absorption spectroscopic methods.

2.3. Physicochemical analysis and microbial assessment

Statement from quality control and quality assurance unit (QA/QC) of RespirTek Laboratory, USA showed that all analyses were conducted following procedures set forth by the ISO/IEC 17025:2005 accreditation program standards for which the laboratory holds certification. Quality assurance systems and quality control criteria were strictly followed. The following parameters were determined:

  • Total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH)

  • Monoaromatic hydrocarbons: benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene (BTEX). For xylene, ortho -, meta - and para- derivatives were assessed

  • PAHs: a total of 17 PAH compounds: (i) naphthalene, (ii) acenaphthylene, (iii) acenaphthene, (iv) fluorene, (v) phenanthrene, (vi) anthracene, (vii) fluoranthene, (viii) pyrene, (ix) benzo (a) pyrene, (x) chrysene, (xi) benzo (b) fluoranthene, (xii) benzo (k)fluoranthene, (xiii) benzo (a) pyrene, (xiv) dibenz(a,b) anthracene, (xv) benzo (ghi)perylene, (xvi) 2-methylnaphthalene and (xvii) indeno (1,2,3-cd) pyrene

  • Metals: barium (Ba), calcium (Ca), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), mercury (Hg), Nickel (Ni), Sodium (Na), Potassium (K), cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn) and arsenic (As), a metalloid

  • Miscellaneous parameters: pH, salinity, nitrogen, phosphorus, total organic carbon and electrical conductivity.

  • Microbial activity: assessment of 48 hr and 96 hr microbial activities of both remediation end-product and contaminated material (control) was conducted by the USA based laboratory. Total hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria as well as total microbial count were assessed by the Nigerian based laboratories.

Hydrocarbon compounds were analyzed using Gas chromatographic method, microbial assessment was carried out using heterotrophic plate count method and metals were determined using atomic absorption spectroscopic technique. All the other parameters were carried out using standard procedures such as described in [24, 25, 32]. The CNB-Tech products (Bioprimer and (Biozator) were characterized using infrared and UV-visible spectroscopic methods. The basic characteristics of Ecorem have already been reported in [24, 25] but was slightly enhanced, in this study, for case specificity.

2.4. Assessment of seed germination potential of treated samples

The remediated materials used in this evaluation were not mixed with external soil and no external fertilizer material was added to the remediated soil. Seed germination potential (SGP) of treated samples were assessed and only viable maize seedlings were used for this purpose. In a remediated material matrix (4kg material contained in an experimental plastic pot), 6 seedlings of maize were sown. This was replicated three times. All together, 18 (6 x 3) seedlings were used to evaluate this effect. Similar set- ups were also established for the untreated oil – based mud and cuttings, which served as control systems. This gave a total of 18 (6 x 3) seeds tested for germination potential for the test systems and 18 seedlings for the control media. This phase of the evaluation lasted for 7 days.

2.5. Assessment of process fluid (leachate) effect on plant growth

Adequate leachate (process fluid) management strategy was put in place as leachate generated during remediation was recycled into the remediation process. However, this evaluation was to ensure or to prove that in the event of any leachate seepage there would be reduced environmental risk. This phytotoxicity assessment was carried out using a cereal (corn: Zea mays L.,) as an indicator crop and indices of toxicity were (i) root length and (ii) plant height. Experimental systems constituted of the following set-ups, where FS is dilution factor and SF stands for farm soil:

  1. Farm soil + tap water (Code: FS + water). This served as control system for (ii) and (iii)

  2. Farm soil + stock leachate (Code: FS + LDF-0). This served as control system for (iii)

  3. Farm soil + diluted leachate series:

  1. Farm soil + leachate DF-1 (Code: FS + LDF-1)

  2. Farm soil + leachate DF-2 (Code: FS + LDF-2)

  3. Farm soil + leachate DF-3 (Code: FS + LDF-3)

  4. Farm soil + leachate DF-4 (Code: FS + LDF-4)

For this assessment, bulk farm soil sample, obtained from a village (K-dere, part of Ogoniland) in Rivers State, was used. Soil was sieved through a mesh and transferred at 1.5 kg per pot and designated pots were treated to 70% approximate field capacity (determined against gravity) using equal volume of appropriate fluid (water, stock leachate or diluted leachate). The systems were allowed to stabilize for 2 weeks after which viable maize seedlings were sown at 3 per pot. As the plants grew, the soil systems were treated with equal volumes of the appropriate fluid to maintain appropriate moisture level, as required by plant. Experiment lasted for 2 weeks, at the end of which the heights were recorded and plants harvested. Caution was exercised to ensure that roots were not destroyed during harvest. Root lengths were then recorded and mean values per pot calculated for each parameter.

2.6. Evaluation of beneficial utilization of end-product

Similar to the case in Section 2.4, in this evaluation, the remediated matrix was not mixed with any type of soil, neither was any external fertilizer administered. At close - out of the pilot-scale remediation project, the remediated materials were air dried, primed with one of CNB-Tech products (Ecorem) at a specified loading scheme and then utilized as a growth media. Primed end-products were transferred at 4 kg per pot of 4 liter capacity. Three indicator crops used for this project were:

  • Corn (Zea mays L.,)

  • Green leafy vegetable (Fluted pumpkin: Telfairia Occidentalis)

  • Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz)


Figure 2.

Infrared spectrum of Bioprimer, a CNB-Tech remediation product

The crops were used because they are commonly grown and consumed in the Niger Delta region of the country. Due to time constraint, duration of investigation varied for the crops, the longest being up to 130 days for green leafy vegetable (Fluted pumpkin: Telfairia Occidentalis) while corn (Zea mays L.,) and cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) were grown for 2 and 3 weeks respectively. Untreated OBM-DC served as a control and farm soil served as a second control.

2.7. Statistical analysis

Data generated in this study were subjected to statistical evaluations using SPSS software for Windows, version 17.0. Descriptive statistics were applied to evaluate mean and standard deviation. Paired sample T-Test and One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) were applied to identify significant variations among treatments as appropriate. Pearson correlation was used to ascertain significant relationships.

3. Results

3.1. Typical infrared spectra of two CNB- Tech remediation products

The infrared absorption spectra of two CNB-Tech products (Bioprimer and Biozator) utilized in this pilot scale study are presented in Figures 2 and 3. Both spectra showed absorption peaks in the region of 4000 to 600 cm-1.

Major information from the infrared spectra were: strong, broad absorption band of oxygen-hydrogen (O-H) of an alcohol (aryl/aliphatic) and N-H absorption bonds around 3500 - 3300 cm-1; carbon-oxygen double bond ( C=O) absorption band found around 1750 – 1500cm-1. This could be carbonyls of ester (RCOOR), aldehyde (RCHO), ketone (RCOR) and acid (RCOOH). C-N bond of nitrogenous matter falls in the end of the range; C-O bond around 1200 – 1000 cm-1 and of carbon-hydrogen (C-H) bond for aromatic moieties found below 1000cm-1 [33].


Figure 3.

Infrared spectrum of Biozator, a CNB-Tech remediation product

3.2. Initial characteristics of the drilling wastes

The results presented in this paper were largely those obtained from the International laboratory. Table 1 contains the initial characteristics of the drilling wastes (oil-based mud and cuttings).

S/N Parameter Concentration
1.Arsenic (mg/kg)6.69
*2.CadmiumNot determined
12.TKN (%)0.0357
13.Phosphorus (%)0.0291
*15.Electrical conductivity (mSm-1)Not determined
16Total organic carbon (%)Not determined
17..Salinity (mg/kg)4300
BTEX compounds
3.m- and p-xylene0.532
PAH Compounds
9.Benzo (a) anthracene(mg/kg)BDL
12.Benzo (k)fluoranthene(mg/kg)BDL
14.Dibenz(a,h)anthracene(mg/kg) BDL
Total PAH(mg/kg)10.65
Total petroleum hydrocarbon
1.TPH (mg/kg)79 200

Table 1.

Initial characteristics of the oil -based drilling mud and cuttings used in this pilot scale study

[i] - *Parameters not determined by the USA laboratory but quantified by Nigerian based laboratories

Results indicated the presence of inorganic constituents and organics (hydrocarbons compounds). Regarding inorganics, soft metal contents increased in the order: Na (493 mg/kg) < K (1930 mg/Kg) < Ca (87, 300 mg/kg). The elemental ratios were 177 for Ca/Na, 45 for Ca/K and 4 for K/Na. Heavy metal concentrations increased in the order: Hg < As < Ni < Zn < Cu < Pb < Ba. In terms of hydrocarbon contents, total concentrations of polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) compounds was 10.65 mg/kg with concentrations of the individual components (Figure 4) increasing as phenanthrene (0.78 mg/Kg: 7%) < naphthalene (1.94 mg/kg; 18%) < fluorene (2.54mg/kg; 24%) < 2-methylnapthalene (5.39 mg/kg; 51%). Results on monoaromatics (BTEX), shown in Figure 5, gave a total concentration of 4.213 mg/kg out of which toluene constituted the highest fraction (45.34%), followed by xylene (34.56%), ethylbenzene (19.63%) and benzene (0.47%). Total xylene concentration was 1.456 mg/kg out of which ortho-xylene constituted 63.46% while meta- and para-xylenes gave 36.54% of the total (1.456 mg/kg).


Figure 4.

Percentage distribution of individual components of PAH relative to the total concentration


Figure 5.

Percentage distribution of individual components relative to the total BTEX concentration

3.3. Results on petroleum hydrocarbon degradation

By application of CNB-Tech products, the initial TPH concentration of 79, 200 mg/kg decreased to 1888.67 ±161. 20 mg/kg. The difference in these two values was a mean TPH concentration of 77 311.33 ± 161.20 mg/kg. This difference corresponds to the total concentration of hydrocarbon compounds degraded or destroyed by the applied treatment. The initial concentration (79, 200 mg/kg) and the degraded fractions (in replicates of three) are presented in Figure 6. Specifically, results on hydrocarbon degradation (Figure 7) revealed 98% degradation for TPH, 100% degradation for BTEX and 100% degradation for PAH. Reduction in TPH level by 99% was obtained by the Nigerian laboratories.


Figure 6.

Graph showing concentrations of degraded TPH relative to the initial concentration

S/N Parameter Remarks for contaminated medium Remarks for remediated medium
1.AppearanceViscous, pasty and solid interfaced in oil suspensionTransformed to non-viscous, non-sticky crumby humus soil appearance
2.ColorLight brownTreated matrix had characteristic dark color of humus soil
3.OdorPresence of strong hydrocarbon odorComplete disappearance of hydrocarbon odor in all the treated media and all treated samples exhibited clean earthy smell
4.Sheen testStrong oil sheen in water suspensionComplete disappearance of oil sheen in water suspension

Table 2.

Qualitative results for the remediated media

Results on qualitative assessments of the untreated OBM-DC and remediated material in terms of appearance, odor, color and sheen test are contained in Table 2 and Figure 8 depicts the materials’ appearances before and after remediation.


Figure 7.

Percentage degradation of hydrocarbon compounds in the drilling wastes by applied CNB-Tech products


Figure 8.

Photographs showing the materials before and after bioremediation by the application of CNB-Tech products

3.4. Results on inorganic constituents of the CNB -Tech treated materials

Descriptive statistics of selected inorganic constituents found in the treated media are presented in Table 3. Changes in their concentrations relative to the initial values are presented in Figure 9. For instance, the initial pH value was reduced to 7.90 from 10.20, corresponding to 23% reduction. Likewise, the following reductions were obtained: 62% for Ca, 46% for As, 44% for Cu, 70% for Pb, 100% for Hg, 57% for Ni and 37% for Zn. The concentrations of some elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium were elevated. The nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) status, as affected by treatment, is presented in Figure 10. Nigerian laboratories obtained the same trend for NPK status. Based on the results from USA, CNB-Tech remediation option applied in this study raised the nitrogen level from 0.036% to 0.096%, raised phosphorus level from 0.0291% to 0.312%, increased potassium by 1.4 fold (Figure 10) and sodium by 3 folds. The USA based laboratory did not analyze for total organic carbon and electrical conductivity but the Nigerian based laboratory did and recorded electrical conductivity in the range of 1956 to 2063 mSm-1 with a mean value of 2003 ± 54 mSm-1 before treatment. After remediation, the electrical conductivity of the end products ranged from 594 to 696 mSm-1 and a mean value of 640± 52 mSm-1. From the mean values, there was a 68% reduction in electrical conductivity.

S/N Element Minimum Maximum Mean Standard error Standard deviation Sample population
2.Nitrogen (%)0.0700.1300.0960.0160.0283
3.Phosphorus (%)0.2800.3600.3120.0260.0463
4.Potassium (%)0.500.770.610.080.143
5.Copper (mg/kg)18.1021.7020.101.061.833
6.Zinc (mg/kg)79.3011092.679.0815.733
7.Nickel (mg/kg)3.997.055.290.921.593
8.Calcium (mg/kg)289003920033466303052483
9.Arsenic (mg/kg)2.504.853.590.681.183
10.Lead (mg/kg)5.8754.8027.0614.5025.123

Table 3.

Concentrations of some inorganic parameters in the treated materials


Figure 9.

Reductions in some inorganic constituents of the drilling materials treated by CNB-Tech

Total organic carbon ranged from 2.95 to 3.06% with a mean of 2.99± 0.06% before remediation and increased to 3.84 to 3.93% with a mean of 3.88 ± 0.05%; corresponding to an increase by 23%. Before remediation, Cd concentration varied from 6.70 to 7.60 mg/kg, with a mean value of 7.03± 0.49 mg/kg. After treatment, the metal concentration ranged from 0 to 1.80 mg/kg with an average of 1.05 ± 0.94 mg/kg. By the two mean values, cadmium level was reduced by 85% due to applied CNB-Tech products.


Figure 10.

Nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium status before and after treatment as obtained by the USA based laboratory

3.5. Results on microbial activity

The digital photographs of heterotrophic plate count results are shown in Figure 11. Microbial activities assessed on the untreated and treated samples revealed that the contaminated oil-based mud and cuttings (no. 1 in Figure 11), contained some indigenous microorganisms of up to 1.9 x 103 (cfu/mL) while the CNB-Tech remediated samples recorded up to a maximum of 3.15 x107 cfu/mL. An illustration of microbial enumeration for 48-hr and 96 hr counts are presented in Figure 12.


Figure 11.

Heterotrophic plate count digital photographs for untreated OBM-DC (1) (before remediation) and replicates (2, 3, 4), after remediation using CNB-Tech method

At 48 hr microbial activity assessment, maximum total microbial population of 1.9 x103 cfu/mL was obtained for untreated OBM-DC and in the materials remediated by the application of CNB-Tech products, it was 1.45 x107 cfu/mL. These two values were significantly different at p ≤ 0.05. At 96 hr microbial activity assessment, a total microbial population of 2.4 x103 cfu/mL was obtained for untreated OBM-DC and 3.15 x107 cfu/mL for the remediated matrices. Results showed that within 48 hours, the microbial activity of the remediated matrices excelled over the untreated by over 7,000 folds and at 96 hours, it excelled by over 13, 000 folds, indicating rapid multiplication of microbial activity by CNB-Tech products which also increased with time.

3.6. Results on phytotoxicity assessment of remediated samples

3.6.1. Toxicity on seed germination potential

The contaminated OBM-DC did not allow the germination of maize seedlings. Out of the sown 18 seedlings, none germinated. The untreated OBM-DC therefore, gave 100% toxicity to seed germination potential (SGP) of maize. On the contrary, all the 18 maize seedlings sown in the CNB-Tech remediated matrices germinated (Figure 13). Hence, resulting in 100% positive effect on SGP, indicating that the treated matrices exhibited 0% toxicity to seed germination.


Figure 12.

Microbial activity at 48 –hr and 96-hr counts for untreated oil-based drilling wastes and CNB-Tech remediated samples


Figure 13.

Germinated maize seedlings growing in treated media with picture taken on day 4 of growth

3.7. Results on beneficial use of remediation end product

Figure 14, shows a cross-section of the treated materials (during recovery period) being aerated in preparation for use as plant growth media.


Figure 14.

A cross section of project technical staff preparing the treated drilling wastes (OBM-DC) for use as plant growth media

During the recovery phase of the remediated end-product, treated materials were allowed to lie fallow in order to establish natural processes as a sign of wellbeing and restoration. In this project, after the fallow period, early indications of material restoration were:

  • spontaneous vegetative growth,

  • the presence of larva within the spontaneously grown green vegetation,

  • butterflies and small birds perching on the surface of the material, which could not take place before treatment

Remediated materials supported the growth of fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis). A cross-section of the green leafy vegetable at over 100 days of growth and that of cassava, at one week of growth, growing in the treated materials are shown in Figure 15. Narrowing to the height of Telfairia occidentalis, the mean height for crops grown in the untreated OBM-DC was 0 cm as there was complete inhibition to both germination and growth. The mean height for crops grown in CNB-Tech remediated media was 217± 25 cm, a value higher than the mean height (187± 40 cm) of the vegetable crops grown in farm soil collected from the region. The difference in the two mean values was significant at p = 0.14. Correlation for the heights of the vegetables grown in the treated media and those grown in the farm soil gave a coefficient of 0.95 (p = 0.204).


Figure 15.

Remediated drilling wastes as plant growth medium for Fluted pumpkin (Telfairia occidentalis) and cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz)

3.8. Results on the impact of remediation leachate on plant life

Comparative evaluations of control system (soil treated with water only), stock leachate system (soil treated with leachate without any form of dilution) and systems treated with serial dilutions of the leachate (soil treated with leachate diluted with water by factors 1, 2, 3 and 4) are presented in Table 4.

S/NSystem CodeLeachate effect of on vegetative growth relative to control (%)Effect of serial dilution on plant using stock (undiluted leachate) as reference (%)
HeightRoot lengthHeightRoot length
1.FS+ Water (Control)ReferenceReferenceNot applicableNot applicable
2.FS + DF-0-1.50-23.45ReferenceReference
3.FS + DF-132.601.1234.6232.20
4.FS + DF-245.0116.3742.2250.02
5.FS + DF-366.8621.3769.4158.55
6.FS + DF- 475.3924.5178.0762.66

Table 4.

Impact of leachate generated at the close-out of project on the root length and height of maize

[i] - Negative sign stands for decrease. The other positive values stand for increase, FS = farm soil and DF = dilution factor

Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on plant height and root length are presented in Figures 16 and 17. Relative to the control system (soil treated with water only), leachate diluted with water by a factor of 4 improved plant height by 75.39% and root length by 24.51%. Figures16 and 17 gave all the systems at a glance, relating the control (FS + Water), system SF+LDF-0 (DF-0) and serial dilutions (DF-1 = FS+ LDF-1, DF-2 = FS+ LDF-2, DF-3 = FS+ LDF-3 and DF-4 = FS + LDF - 4) for plant height and root length. Evaluating the effect of leachate dilution relative to the stock (undiluted) leachate, a 4-fold dilution excelled over the stock by 78.0% for plant height and 62.66% for root length. The relationships between plant height or root length and dilution factors are given in Figure 18. Pearson correlations gave strong coefficients: plant height versus dilution factor, r = 0.979 (p = 0.004), root length versus dilution factor, r = 0.932 (p = 0.021) and plant height versus root length, r = 0.972 (p = 0.006). From the results, plant vegetative growth increased with increasing dilution of leachate.


Figure 16.

Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on height of maize, including a picture of the stock leachate contained in a beaker


Figure 17.

Pictorial and graphical representations of leachate impact on root length of maize


Figure 18.

Relationship between plant vegetative growth and serial dilution of process fluid (leachate) generated during the remediation project

4. Discussion

The type of inorganic constituents and hydrocarbons found in the drilling wasting used in this study were consistent with the reports of [4, 17] but varied in concentrations. This confirms that the OBM-DC used in this study was toxic [2]. The remediation products of CNB-Tech series used in this study demonstrated a high (98 to 100%) degradation potential for the different constituents of hydrocarbon compounds found in the drilling wastes, within a short period of 6 days. This excellent performance was attributed to the chemistry, nature and operation mechanisms of the CNB-Tech formulations.

An infrared spectrum is primarily used to identify functional groups present in a molecular fragment [33]. The infrared spectra obtained for CNB-Tech products (Biozator and Bioprimer) revealed enrichment of the molecular structure of the two products with oxo- groups, indicating oxidizing functionality. The presence of C-H of aromatic nature and the O-H stretching absorption indicate the presence of both hydrophobic and hydrophilic properties, respectively, in their molecular fragments. By implication, the remediation products are naturally endowed with:

  • oxidizing ability

  • polar (hydrophilic: water loving) molecular fragment

  • non-polar fragment (hydrophobic: water insoluble, oil soluble) molecular fragment.

These natural endowments permit the dissolution of the products’ active ingredients (solids) in water, making water the carrier medium for CNB-Tech liquid formulations. Consequently, Biozator and bioprimer are water based technical grade products. By the mentioned characteristics, the two products perform reduction and oxidation (Redox) reaction mechanisms, resulting in the degradation/ destruction of hydrocarbons compounds, without recombination to form new hydrocarbons. These absorption peaks in the infrared spectra further reveal that CNB – Tech products are natural hydrocarbon biodegradation catalysts for the following reasons:

  • enhaced water solubility of hydrocarbons via sorption, hydrolysis and oxidation mechanisms

  • enhanced bioavailability of hydrocarbon pollutants for microbial degradation

  • increased supply of oxygen [O] molecules required for enhanced reduction –oxidation reactions in the hydrocarbon degradation process.

  • surfactant property

  • emulsification of hydrocarbons

The combined actions of hydrophobic molecular fragment, hydrolysis, oxidation and surfactant property of CNB-Tech products render hydrocarbons more water soluble and subsequently more available for biodegradation. Bioprimer and Biozator also emulsify hydrocarbons into droplets that can be easily assimilated by microorganisms. By these properties, the products reduce oil-water surface tension; enhance water solubility of petroleum hydrocarbons thereby enhancing the bioavailability of the contaminants (hydrocarbons) to microorganisms for both extracellular and intracellular decompositions. The two products are 100% biodegradable. The third CNB-Tech product used in this study (Ecorem: a black amorphous solid material, also 100% biodegradable) contains major and minor plant nutrient elements and via hydro-activation, naturally generates mixed consortia of microorganisms, which multiplies with time to facilitate the destruction of hydrocarbons. No engineered microorganism or externally imported microorganism was used in this study. This technology, therefore, saves time and eliminates the daunting task of isolating pure microbial strains and associated adaptability challenges linked with conventional bioremediation techniques [7, 8, 18, 19, 20].

The microorganisms from Ecorem product perform the following functions:

  • extracellular decomposition in which the naturally produced microorganisms secrete enzymes to breakdown large organic compounds (such as hydrocarbons) into smaller forms for easier absorption into the micro-organisms. Once the smaller compounds have been absorbed by the microorganisms, intracellular decomposition takes place

  • increased microbial activity facilitated by Ecorem, results in thermophilic temperature modulations in the range of 55 to 60oC, a process that accelerates degradation of hydrocarbons, especially polynuclear aromatic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).Thermophilic temperature modulations also controls thermo-sensitive pathogen to crops animals and man; killing off weeds and seeds that will be detrimental to land use of end products.

By the above described mechanisms, the CNB-Tech products were able to biodegrade petroleum hydrocarbon compounds with high efficiency (98% degradation for TPH and 100% degradation for PAHs and BTEX) within a short period of time of 6 days, relative to previous works on bioremediation. For instance, in a study of in-situ bioremediation of oily sludge via biostimultaion of indigenous microbes, conducted by [34], through the addition of manure at the Shengli oilfield in Northern China for 360 days, 58.2% reduction in TPH was achieved in test plots and 15.5% reduction in control plot. By treating 2 kg of drill cuttings with initial TPH of 806.36 mg/kg for 56 days under the conditions of composting of spent oyster mushroom (P.ostreatus) substrate, [35] recorded overall degradation of PAHs in the range of 80.25 to 92.38%. In this present study, OBM-DC used had initial TPH of 79, 200 mg/kg and was degraded by 98% within the stated short period of 6 days. In a field trial biopile composting method [36] for drilling mud polluted sites in the Southeast of Mexico with comparable TPH level of 99 300 ± 23000 mg/kg, after 180 days, TPH concentrations decreased from 99 300 ± 23000 mg/Kg to 5500 ± 700 mg/kg, corresponding to 94% degradation for amended biopile and to 22900 ±7800 mg/kg, representing 77% decrease for unamended biopile. The mean residual value of TPH (5500 ± 700 mg/kg) left in the treated matrix in their study was higher than the mean residual value (1888± 161 mg/kg) obtained in this present study.

By conducting an investigation on two bioremediation technologies (bioremediation by augmentation and conventional composting using crude manure and straw) as treatment options for oily sludge and oil polluted soil in China [12] in which the total hydrocarbon content (THC) varied from 327.7 to 371.2 g/kg (327700 to 371200 mg/kg) for dry sludge and 151.0 g/kg (151000 mg/kg) for soil for a period of 56 days; after three times of bio-preparation application, THC decreased by 46 to 53% in the oily sludge and soil. The results (98 -100% degradation) obtained from this present study was from only one dose application of CNB-Tech products. Repeated application of CNB-Tech products by two to three dose applications will achieve 100% degradation of TPH. In another instance, a 5- month field scale bioremediation of sludge matrix via the utilization of organic matter such as bark chips via conventional composting, mineral oil (equivalent to total hydrocarbons) decreased from 2400 to 700 mg/kg (70% decrease) for sludge matrix and from 700 to 200 mg/kg, corresponding to 71% decrease [14]. In treating oil sludge using composting technology in semiarid conditions for 3 months, hydrocarbons were reduced from 250 to 300g/kg (250000 to 300 000 m/kg) by 60% against reduction by 32% recorded in the control [37]. The treatment applied by [37] and consequent reduction of 60% implies that the residual hydrocarbons in the treated samples would be between 100 000 and 180 000 mg/kg unlike the results obtained in this present study that gave residual hydrocarbon of 1888.67 ±161.20 mg/kg. In a study carried out by [38], sand samples contaminated with oil spill were collected from Pensacola beach (Gulf of Mexico) and tested to isolate fungal diversity associated with beach sands and investigate the ability of isolated fungi for crude oil biodegradation. From their results, 4.7 to 7.9% biodegradation was recorded.

Elsewhere in India, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait [39], bioremediation technology was applied in field-scale degradation of hydrocarbons in different oil wastes for a period of 12 months. Table 5 illustrates different reductions in total petroleum hydrocarbons obtained in these field case studies. TPH reductions in drilling wastes were obtained in the range of 90.85 to 95.48% with residual TPH in treated samples in the range of 2600 to 10 900 mg/kg (0.26 to 1.09%).

Name of the oil Installation / type of oily waste Quantity of oily waste (cubic meter) Number of batches TPH Content (%) in oily waste before and after bioremediation % Reduction in TPH Residual TPH in treated material (%)
Before After
Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC), Abu Dhabi / Oil contaminated drill cuttings200117.260.9894.320.98
BG Exploration and Production India Limited (BGEPIL), India / Oil based mud (OBM)2,42835.75 – 6.230.26 - 0.5795.48-90.850.26 – 0.57
Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL), India / Oily sludge5,000119. 30 – 26.50.26 - 0.5798.65-97.850.26 -0.57
Cairn Energy Pty. India Limited, India / Oil contaminated drill cuttings567214.93 – 18.810.82 – 1.0994.51-94.211.09
Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL), India / Oily sludge4,444226.120.8996.590.89
Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL), India / Oily sludge5,010316.70 – 52.810.90 – 1.6094.61-96.970.90-1.60
Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) Refineries in India / Oily sludge (acidic + non acidic)75,412489.6 – 38.40.37 – 0.9596.15-97.530.37-0.95
Kuwait Oil Company (KOC), Kuwait / Oil contaminated soil77814.6 – 12.750.09 – 0.1098.04-99.210.09-0.10
Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL), India. / Oily sludge2,22228.35 – 19.860.84 – 0.9789.84-95.120.84-0.97
Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) installations in India / Oily sludge & oil contaminated soil95,49914512.0 – 51.50.5 – 1.295.83-97.670.50--1.20
Oil India Limited (OIL) , Assam / Oily sludge & oil contaminated soil15,9211421.6 – 37.70.49 – 0.5397.73-98.590.49-0.53
Reliance Energy Limited (RIL), India / Oily sludge611219.150.597.390.50

Table 5.

Reductions in TPH levels obtained in field case studies of different types of petroleum impacted wastes (soils, drill cuttings and oil-based mud) in Abu Dhabi, Kuwait and India [39].

The residual TPH level (1888.67 ± 161.20 mg/kg) obtained in this present study was below the Environmental Guidelines and standards for the Petroleum Industry in Nigeria (EGASPIN) intervention value for mineral oil (petroleum hydrocarbon) of 5000 mg/kg [15]. By repeated application of CNB-Tech products, it is possible to meet a very strict regulatory standard for residual TPH level of less than 50 mg/kg. The changes in metal concentrations found in this study were attributed to (i) immobilization via chelate formation (ii) preferential supplementation of trace plant nutrient elements using the three products, (iii) natural electrochemical process whereby the positively or negatively charged organic molecules (generated during the natural transformation process occurring when the products were in use) bond with their counterparts in organic matter. These processes include oxidation, methylation, hydroxylation, carboxylation, coupling and polymerization [40] thereby enhancing bioavailability of the metals to microorganisms that utilize the organic matter supplied by the CNB –Tech products as energy source.

Microbial population found in a typical tropical soil under Nigerian climate is in the neighborhood of 8.19 x 106 cfu/mL [41]. Relative to this value, the population found in the contaminated OBM-DC (1.9 to 2.4 x 103 cfu/mL) showed suppressed microbial population, attributed to strong hydrocarbon (TPH level of 79, 200mg/kg) pollution. This is in agreement with the reports of [3]. The microbial population (1.45 to 3.15 x 107 cfu/mL) found in treated samples revealed restoration of soil microbial population using CNB-Tech products. It excelled over the value recorded in polluted material by over 7000 folds and higher than the value reported by [34], where TPH degraders and PAH degraders increased by one to two orders of magnitude via the addition of manure. Furthermore, the use of CNB-Tech products modified the pH value of the drilling wastes, transforming it from strongly alkaline (pH of 10) medium to pH of 7.90 medium; comparable to the 7.3±0.1 obtained by [34] for bioremediated soils. The very high pH of the untreated drilling waste materials could be attributed to some of the additives in the drilling fluid. Drilling fluids contain an internal phase of brine such as calcium salts [3]. This was confirmed by the high content of Ca (87 300 mg/kg) obtained in this study for the untreated material. One dose application of CNB-Tech products reduced this concentration by up to 62%, repeated dose application would definitely bring Ca level to any desired value.

Observations made during the recovery /fallow period were signs of drastic positive change in toxicity conditions, implying reduced toxicity. Reduction of soil toxicity by bioremediation, evidenced by increase in EC50 of the soil was reported by [34]. In this study, bioremediation using CNB-Tech products reduced toxicity in treated materials relative to untreated OBM-DC, evidenced by 100% positive effect on seedling germination potential and improved crop vegetative growth. Reduced material toxicity also explains the increased microbial activity of the treated matrices in comparison to the untreated drilling wastes, obtained in this study. The agricultural potential for the remediation end-products was also manifested by:

  • increased microbial activities

  • increased nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) status

  • increased soil crumby nature as against very viscous and pasty characteristics of untreated drilling wastes.

These nutrient elements (NPK) enhance microbial growth, microbial population, microbial activity and consequently increase soil fertility [41]. By these, CNB-Tech products could overcome the extreme phytotoxicity [100% toxicity to seedling germination potential of maize and 100% inhibition to vegetative growth for three different types of plant (maize, fluted pumpkin and cassava)], caused by the untreated drilling waste. CNB-Tech products transformed oil-based drilling mud/cuttings to arable soil; capable of supporting seed germination and plant growth; excelling the performance of a control (farm soil apparently not impacted by drilling waste or crude oil) by 14%.

Electrical conductivity, a measure of dissolved ions in solution, is influenced by several soil physical and chemical properties such as salinity, saturation percentage, water content, bulk density, organic matter content, temperature and cation exchange capacity of the soil matrix. Impact of these influencing factors must be reflected in interpreting electrical conductivity effect on plant growth. Generally, elevated electrical conductivity and high salinity levels in agricultural soils may result in reduced plant growth and productivity or in extreme cases, the elimination of crops and native vegetation [42]. The reduction of electrical conductivity by 68% is a positive development because it demonstrates that the products could also modify the salinity of the material. In situations of very high initial electrical conductivity, there is a step-down CNB-Tech product as was carried out in this study and in situations of very low electrical conductivity, there is also a step-up CNB-Tech product as reported in a previous publication [30].Results in this present study on excellent growth of crops planted in the remediated matrices were indicators of acceptable soil salinity level for plant growth. The beneficial use of the end-products obtained in this study for crop production were attributed to postulations based on findings from this study and previous works on this subject matter, which include:

  1. stimulation of beneficial microorganisms in soil, which enhances soil fertility [25]

  2. possible increased photosynthetic rate in plants evidenced by increased photosynthetic pigments (chlorophylls a and b) [40]

  3. increase in soil buffering capacity [28]

  4. increased soil moisture retention capacity by reducing hydrophobicity tendency [29]

  5. positive soil temperature modifications that enhance soil nutrient bioavailability to plants [31, 40]

  6. formation of stable chelates with toxic metals such as Pb, Cu and Cd in order to reduce their bioavailability to plants [40]

  7. preferential exclusion of the chelated toxic metals from soil solution, allowing the plant nutrient elements to be assimilated into plant cells

  8. improvement of soil physicochemical properties via:

  9. increased aeration and water retention [29]

  10. activation of the macro and micro nutrients in soil in forms readily assimilated by plants [30, 40]

  11. improvement of plant root development and growth

  12. improvement of seed sprout of plants and subsequent shoot growth

  13. improved plant biomass production [26]

  14. enhanced soil nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium status for improved soil fertility

  15. acting as plant growth hormone, having positive stimulant action for plant growth [25, 26]

  16. improvement of soil permeability, promoting plant drought resistance [29]

  17. promotion of increased soil porosity and organic matter content, hence greatly promoting the microorganism activity and improving soil fertility.

Regarding leachate generation and management during the remediation exercise; fluid (leachate) produced as remediation progressed was recycled by incorporation into the biocell and used to regulate moisture content, thereby reducing water usage and conserving water resources. Expertise applied during the project ensured that at remediation project close-out, no isolated fluid system was actually produced. Nonetheless, the assessment of leachate effect on plant growth carried out in this work was to establish the fact that even in the event of accidental release of some fluid into the environment, there would be minimal risk to the receptor biotic community. More evaluations are still ongoing in this regard. Results from this study revealed that the leachate generated, though a concentrate, supported plant growth and when diluted with ordinary tap water gave a better support; reasons being that:

  • toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in the contaminated drilling wastes have been destroyed to an acceptable level, evidenced by natural foamability of the concentrated leachate. Foamability would hardly occur if oil was still present

  • leachate is also enriched with plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium

The process fluid, therefore, had some fertilizer value. The percentage decreases (1.50% and 23.45%) obtained for plant height and root length respectively, for the stock leachate was attributed to concentrated level of nutrients, confirmed by better performance of dilute leachate series. Naturally, in any formulated fertilizer, plant nutrients are applied at specified concentrations otherwise may hinder plant growth. Comparative evaluations of control system (soil treated with water only), stock leachate system (soil treated with leachate without any form of dilution) and systems with serial dilutions of the leachate (soil treated with leachate diluted with water by factors 1, 2, 3 and 4) revealed that the leachates were not toxic to receptor plants. The implication of this is that in the event of occasional spill of the leachate to the adjacent environment; dilution with water is, therefore, an adequate safety measure.

The ability of the end products to sustain the growth of green leafy vegetable: fluted pumpkin (Telfairia ocidentis) and root tuber crop, cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) and cereal crop (maize) is a demonstration of the utility of the remediation end product. It therefore stands that the use of CNB-Tech products as a biotechnological tool for hydrocarbon degradation in drilling waste converts these waste materials into non-toxic and potentially useful end products. In addition to the beneficial use of the remediation end-product for agricultural purposes, other possible utility options, shown in Figure 19, include:


Figure 19.

Potential utility of end - products from bioremediation using CNB-Tech products

  • material for road construction

  • material for building construction

  • substrate for the production CNB-Tech bioremediation agents

  • excellent organic fertilizer for subsistence and commercial agriculture

  • feedstock for bioremediation projects

Table 6 is a comparative evaluation of economic, operational and environmental implications of thermal technologies as reported by [3] and CNB-Technology based on the results and learning from this study.

S/N Thermal Technology CNB-Tech
1.Effective removal and recovery of hydrocarbons from solids Effective removal of hydrocarbons from solid
2.Possibility of recovering base fluid and end - product could be used for brick makingEffective recovery of free phase oil and end product has other uses apart from brick making
3.Low potential for future liabilityNo future liability
4.Requires short timeTime is relatively short
5.High cost of handling environmental issues, since end- product dispersion would be below organic layer where vegetation growth is desiredVery minimized environmental issues
6.Large volume of wastes is required to justify the cost of operationCost-effective for either small or large volume of wastes
7.Requires tightly controlled process parametersDoes not require tightly controlled process parameters
8.Heavy metals and salts are concentrated in processed solidsReduces heavy metals and salts concentrations in process solid
9.High operating temperatures can lead to safety risksLow operating temperature. Operates at ambient temperature; modulation does not exceed 60oC.
10.Requires several operatorsDoes not require several operators
11.Process water contains some emulsified oilsProcess water does not contain some emulsified oils
12.Residue ash requires further treatment No residue ash. End-product is clean soil
13.End product is sterile and can no longer support plant LifeEnd product is fertile and can support microbial and plant Life

Table 6.

Comparative evaluation between thermal technology and CNB-technology

5. Conclusions and recommendations

This study revealed that it is possible to harness natural, biodegradable and local resource materials of Nigeria origin; translate them to scientifically formulated products that can be utilized for efficient biodegradation of hydrocarbon polluted matrices such as oil-based mud and drill cuttings within a reasonable short period of 6 days. This technology thus converts hydrocarbon polluted oil-based mud and drill cuttings to beneficial end-products of high order reuse such as soil amendment, without the generation of secondary waste materials. Field-scale trial adopting CNB-Technology is recommended.


This project was carried out under full financial support of the Remediation Department, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Port Harcourt, Nigeria through the University Liaison Team of the company. The support of the Oil well Team of SPDC that facilitated the procurement of oil- based mud and drill cuttings is also acknowledged.


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