Norwegian peat moss could be used to soak up Gulf oil
A Norwegian company says about 2 pounds of its peat moss can absorb five times its weight in oil.
Tue, May 18, 2010 at 02:29 PM
MOSS TO THE RESCUE: When placed near the shore, the peat moss absorbs oil but not water, according to the company. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)
A small Norwegian company said Tuesday it had developed a peat moss mixture that could protect parts of the U.S. coast from giant plumes of oil gushing from the wreckage of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
The company, Kallak Torvstroefabrikk, says one kilo (2.2 pounds) of its peat moss can absorb the equivalent of five times its weight in oil.
"This makes it possible to protect fragile stretches of the coast: a beach, a swamp, a nesting ground for birds," said Ragnar Kallak, who heads up the three-man company some 43 miles southeast of Oslo.
When placed near the shore, the peat moss, which is made up of decomposed vegetation, absorbs oil but not water, thus blocking the black liquid from polluting the coast, he told AFP.
The peat moss can also be used to clean beaches and rocks already hit by an oil slick, he explained.
"It's high-tech nature," Kallak said.
According to Norwegian scientific and industrial research group Sintef, the absorption method worked well when it was tested in 2009 after the Full City tanker ran aground off Norway's southeastern coast.
Kallak said he had been contacted by a fungi specialist from New Orleans, David Jonsson, who said he had been approached by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which was interested in looking into the peat moss clean-up method.
BP has estimated that about 5,000 barrels have been spewing each day since April 22 from the ruptured oil line in the Gulf of Mexico.
Some experts have however cautioned that BP is vastly underestimating the amount of oil actually spilling into the Gulf, saying the true amount may be 10 times as much.
"We cannot yet treat an entire oil slick just with peat moss, but it is a supplement that makes it possible to protect some high-priority areas," Kallak said.
Copyright 2010 AFP Global Edition