Indepented study by Cresswell Horticultural Services, Grose Vale NSW 2753 Australia
(for the absorption and biological degradation of hydrocarbon waste)
I, Geoff Cresswell, have conducted research on several products used for absorbing hydrocarbon spills. One of these is derived from cotton waste and contains a biological agent that is claimed to promote a more rapid degradation of hydrocarbons.
SpillFix Universal Organic Absorbent is based on a fine grade of coir which is produced from coconut husks. Two important properties of this material in this application are its porous structure (each particle is like a small sponge) and its large surface area per unit volume (Estimated as 6000m2/L).
Cotton waste and coir readily absorb oil but differ in the way they behave once this has happened. Cotton waste absorbents being dusty tend to lose volume and form a paste. Whereas, coir being more crumb like retains its flowable properties for longer.
I have found no published research on how these two materials influence the biological degradation of absorbed hydrocarbons. However, the physical properties of the SpillFix Universal Organic Absorbent should provide a more suitable environment for the microbial activity that drives this process.
The more open structure of the material means that oxygen can diffuse in and waste gasses can diffuse out more readily. Biological processes are inhibited by lack of oxygen in the case of aerobic organisms and by the build-up of toxic by-products.
This open structure means that water can pass through the material more readily supplying the needs of micro-organisms and removing water soluble wastes.
The large surface area available in the coir provides an ideal environment (biofilm) for micro organisms to live and process the hydrocarbons.
I cannot answer the question of whether there is any significant advantage obtained from inoculating the material with an organism. However, studies overseas where large quantities of oil have been added to native soil indicate that suitable organisms occur naturally in the soil.
Finally, the end product of the biodegradation of the SpillFix Universal Organic Absorbent will be a material with exceptional water holding capacity which will increase the fertility and moisture retaining characteristics of the amended soil.