Effectiveness of Bioremediation for the Prestige Fuel Spill: A Summary of Case Studies

J.R. Gallego, E. González-Rojas, A.I. Peláez, J. Sánchez, M.J. García-Martínez, and J.F. Llamas (Spain)


Bioremediation, fuel oil, Prestige, biomarkers, bioaugmentation.


By the end of 2002, the Atlantic and Cantabrian shorelines of Spain were severely contaminated by the Prestige heavy fuel oil spill. Initially the fuel was physically removed by means of hot pressurized water washing and similar procedures. However, bioremediation (full-scale implemented after the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska), was also considered given that the pernicious effects of the hot pressurized water on the biota, the difficulties to collect oily waste and other questions related with the grain-size of the sediments affected and the strong fuel adhesion in the shore rocks. Henceforth, we have carried out several studies throughout the coasts in which monitored natural attenuation, biostimulation and bioaugmentation approaches have been tested in pilot and full-scale experiments for remediating sand, gravel, pebble, cobble and boulder pollution. Microbiological control and chemical determinations by GC-MS were made to monitor these procedures. Results revealed the limited effectiveness of classical bioremediation approaches such as biostimulation with oleophilic fertilicers, and underscored the importance of designing innovative treatments (for instance on-site techniques and fresh water watering). Therefore, this paper summarizes the main outcomes of our studies taking into account other authors’ works about the Prestige fuel biodegradation. As a conclusion, long-term stategies for the bioremediation of spillages with similar characteristics are suggested.

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