Leaking pipelines in Siberia, sabotage operations in Nigeria and the long-term consequences of accidents have one thing in common: they leave behind them huge lakes of oil which pollute the soil, contaminate the ground water and destroy the habitat of humans, animals and plants.
Biotherm Technologie AG from Schaffhausen in Switzerland has devised a way to neutralize the environmental damage and create energy by producing heating oil, diesel fuel and bitumen from long-chain hydrocarbons.
"Our process is based on fractionated depolymerisation and was originally developed for the reconditioning of waste plastics and oil," says Christopher F. Stampfli, director designate of Biotherm Technologie AG. "However, it's equally effective for drying up oil lakes. This is not just an ecological necessity, it also increases effective capacity utilisation of the oil wells and improves energy generation."
Refineries are often thousands of miles from the production areas and oil has to be transported over vast distances - 4 billion tons of crude oil reaches the world's 700 refineries using 3,500 oil tankers and a network of pipelines covering 5 million miles.
Leaks in pipelines, the release of drilling waste, leaking storage tanks and waste disposal sites as well as the flaring of oil and gas cause a percentage to escape unused into the environment.
Christopher Stampfli comments: "This is where our business model comes into effect. With the process developed by Germany's Clyvia Technology GmbH, which is similar to the cracking of crude oil, oil lakes can be transformed into mineral fuel. With an annual processing capacity of 4,000 to 40,000 tonnes the relevant facilities have been designed for decentralised application and can - in contrast to large-scale refineries - be set up practically anywhere in the world. In the light of shrinking energy resources this is a huge market, which can remove some of the pressure on global oil supplies in a decisive manner."