The process can be carried out on either land or water, but has gained some attention in recent years, especially following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (Gulf of Mexico) Oil Spill.
Overall, approximately 4.93 million barrels of crude oil was released into the environment.
Generally speaking, bio-remediation can be carried out either at the site of the pollution (in situ) or the polluted substrate can be transferred to site with a bio-reactor for treatment (ex situ).
In conjunction with bio-remediation, surfactants also play an important role in oil clean-ups, whereby they lower the oil’s surface tension. These disperse the oil throughout the water (into droplets) successively allowing bacteria to begin degrading the oil. While this might play an important role in dissipating oil, careful considerations must be made to ensure the surfactant will not subsequently contribute to pollution.
Traditionally, petroleum-based solvents were used. However, these are generally more toxic and rapidly disperse within aquatic environments. Modern surfactants, on the other hand, utilize non-aromatic, carbon-based, water-mixable solvents.
One of the major fall backs with bio-remediation is that the presence of metals and/or inorganic compounds at abnormally high levels in an environment, such as lead and sodium chloride respectively. These may hinder the process or simply render it nonviable.
Overall, there are some promising signs in the field of bio-remediation, with further R&D contributing to safer and more effective surfactants, being produced and applied in more financially-viable ways. Regardless, preventing oil spills is should always remain as the priority.
(source: The Green Optimistic)