In order to minimise the environmental impact of its oil-field operations, BP Sharjah has been using camel dung and grass clippings to clean up soil contaminated by oil or chemical spillage.

In a novel environmental exercise, BP Sharjah Oil Company has established an on site 'bioremediation' farm, the company's regional Outlook magazine has reported. Situated within the Sajaa Plant operational area, the farm treats any soil contaminated by accidental oil or chemical spillage.

"The treatment uses the natural bacteria found in the dung of locally grazing camels to degrade the hydrocarbon content of the soil, eventually leaving it non-hazardous," said a company statement.

In addition, grass clippings supplied by the municipality provide nutrients to feed bacteria and serve to further break up the contaminated soil, aided by the addition of waste-water.

"All materials are obtained free-of-charge. The only significant operational cost is to periodically turn the soil to maintain adequate ventilation, plus the analytical costs associated with regular testing of residual oil content," explained Ibrahim Almulla, Environmental Advisor of BP Sharjah.

In 2001, some 16,652 cubic feet of soil was processed using the biological treatment. After cleaning using a Vertical Centrifuge Cuttings Dryer to reduce the contamination to about five per cent oil by volume, the soil was transferred to the land farm for bioremediation treatment.

Within eight months the oil content was reduced from 5.0 to 0.3 per cent.

"The system is very pragmatic and cost-effectively delivers high performance. We believe it could be effective in reducing the environmental impact of oil field operations elsewhere in the region," Almulla added.