Abu Dhabi buys KZN oil absorbent

25TH MARCH 2005 


A Kwazulu-Natal product’s latest export breakthrough is into the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

SupaZorb Sales MD John Thompson tells Engineering News in an exclusive interview that the UAE has signed a contract for the supply of 2 000 bags of SupaZorb a month, which will be transported in four containers from Durban.

For some time, SupaZorb has been exported to the UK, Brazil and Korea and it is understood that UAE’s Abu Dhabi National Oil Corporation will use the product to clean up oil spills and also for bioremediation of contaminated land.

SupaZorb is a patented oleophilic absorbent and bioremediation product developed and researched locally by Frans Wilson of Impact Chemical Corporation in Richards Bay, location of the plant types used in its manufacture. A natural product that is not heat-treated in any way, SupaZorb is a blend of four partially-decomposed plant types, predominantly casuarina equisetifolia, which is sustainably harvested from forests that are themselves part of a pre-existing rehabilitation project, the natural range of fungi found in the plants are able to assimilate hydrocarbons and other defined chemicals as nutrients.

“It absorbs all hydrocarbons and you are left with something like compost, which you can throw on your mealies to make them grow better,” Thompson reports.

He says that all the research and development for the four-year-old SupaZorb has been undertaken in South Africa, assisted by Pretoria Univeristy’s department of microbiology and plant pathology under Professor Volker Brozel and the school of environmental science at Northwest University’s Potchefstroom campus under Professor L van Rensburg.

SupaZorb has a fine capillary ultra structure giving it superior absorbent properties as well as providing natural host facilities for more than 700 species of fungi that can consume and convert hydrocarbon oils and solvents as well as many other chemicals – including PCBs, some dyes and pesticides – to carbon dioxide and water, under correct conditions. “This process is called bioremedi-ation and has been tested and is being used successfully on many South African mines as well as oil refineries,” Thompson tells Engineering News. Bioremediation of hydrocarbons is well known using bacteria and enzymes, which are added to the contaminant at substantial cost. Without any synthetic additions, SupaZorb uses the naturally-occurring fungi, including fusarium and penicillium species, which are more efficient than bacteria and more forgiving in terms of ambient conditions. Fungi will work at temperatures between 5