ECO-INNOVATION PROJECTS: HOW TO CLEAN-UP OIL SPILLS WITH GRAPHENE
This is a story of success in the environmental field by Directa Plus SpA, a technological company that industrially produces graphene-based nanomaterials, thanks to the EU-cofounded GEnIuS project.
GEnIuS (Graphene Eco Innovative Sorbent) is a biennial project – coordinated by Directa Plus SpA and co-founded by the EU within the Eco-innovation initiative – which comes up to launch into the European market, ecological and effective graphene-based adsorbents (Graphene Plus, G+), for the remediation of water contaminated by oil and hydrocarbons.
Directa Plus, founded in 2005 and currently one of the biggest producer of pristine graphene-based material in the world, has developed an innovative and patented process for the production of high volumes of this technological products. Last year (23rd June 2014) the company inaugurated the new industrial production plant “Graphene Factory” (actually 30 tonnes/year scalable to 300 tonnes/year), which has been developed and designed with a modular, repeatable and exportable logic in mind.
Grafysorber is the commercial name given to the oil-adsorbent products and promoted by GEnIuS project. Grafysorber products are characterized by unique performance in oil adsorbency, and at the same time absence of toxicity and flammability, oil recovery and reuse of adsorbed material reuse. 1 kg of Grafysorber is able to adsorb more than 90 kg of hydrocarbons before being saturated (at least five times higher than adsorbent material actually on the market). Grafysorber products are able to remove hydrocarbons even at low concentrations (range of ppm), cutting down the pollutants contamination down to 0.5 ppm (really close to potable limits) and can be used as loose materials or inside booms, pillows, pads, filters, etc. Therefore, they represent an effective solution for oil-contaminated water. Moreover, the Italian Environmental Ministry for oil-spills clean-up activities already approved the product.
In general, the use of Grafysorber generates the following environmental and economic benefits:
• Reduced remediation costs due to higher performance in terms of adsorbance capacity and treatment timescale;
• Reduced wastes for landfill disposal, both in terms of adsorbent material and adsorbed oil;
• Reduced use of traditional dangerous substances, such as dispersants, sinking agents, oxidizing chemicals, etc.;
• Reduced greenhouse gas emissions derived from wastes incineration;
• Reduced consumption of non-renewable resources;
• Reduced costs of transport thanks to on-site production;
• Possibility for the product to have a second life cycle in asphalts.
Grafysorber has been firstly industrially tested in a Romanian former refinery site, containing a basin with about 30.000 cubic meters of water contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons. The product used as loose material was able to abate the hydrocarbons concentration from 200-300 ppm down to 0.5 ppm.
Thanks to the very positive results obtained during the project, in May 2015 (Barcelona, 20-21 May) Directa Plus project GEnIuS was awarded by the European Commission during the 18th European Forum on Eco-innovation as one of the best of Eco-Innovation projects.