Contaminated water from Africa’s on-shore oilfields is being cleaned up thanks to an innovative Barnsley consultancy.
Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre-based Oceans ESU was initially called in by the Greater Nile Petroleum Operating Company to carry out work at the Heglig oilfield in Sudan.
The company’s bioremediation system, comprising six reed beds, was so successful that a second project followed and now six more have been set up at other GNPOC oil fields in the region.
Now, with the help of business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley and business coach Mike Kilroy, Oceans ESU has high hopes of securing more contracts in the UK, Eastern Europe and other countries around the world and expects to increase profits by almost three quarters in the current year.
Managing director Lucian Gill said: “The scale of what we do and our emphasis on dealing with complex chemicals and reusable applications is unique in the world.
“We engineer reed beds to get the best possible treatment capability in the smallest area. The reeds regenerate every spring so it’s very low maintenance and, of course, the process doesn’t use any energy and the clean water itself can be reused.”
The reeds have extensive roots that provide an ideal habitat for natural soil bacteria which break down a wide range of common chemical pollutants and the beds can remove all traces of oil from 220,000 tonnes of water every day.
The cleaned water has been used to irrigate newly planted forests at Heglig, replacing those damaged in clashes before Southern Sudan gained its independence last year, and to create a wetland habitat for birds, insects, reptiles, amphibians and mammals.
Many of the creatures that are thriving have been under increasing threat from human development and more than 100 species of birds have been seen there, including the white-headed vulture, black crowned crane and other species that are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
Mohamed Musa, head of GNPOC’s environment section, said: “The management of the bioremediation systems has continued to produce results which far exceed the environmental standards of both Sudan and worldwide.
“We feel that the bioremediation is a success of which we are proud, and Oceans has contributed a great deal towards this success.”
Ten of Oceans ESU’s team of 25 employees are working exclusively in Sudan on GNPOC schemes and three other systems for petrol companies.
The company is designing reed bed systems for two oilfields in Columbia and has installed a smaller scheme in South Africa that treats run-off from a petrol station.