Targa Resource's New Pilot Project Uses Bugs To Clean Soil After Spills

Targa Resources has a pilot project in McKenzie County that will use bioremediation (known as land farming) to remove spilled oil and allow the soil to be reused. The alternative method will introduce bugs to contaminated soil.

“When you spill hydrocarbon, there are naturally occurring microbes – bugs – that immediately start to eat it,” said David McQuade, senior environmental director for Targa. “I’m adding a bunch more bugs that want to eat it at a faster rate.”

After completing a successful land farming project on the Fort Berthold Reservation last year, Targa got permission from the Tribal Business Council to do bioremediation at the company’s facility in New Town.

Microorganisms added during the Bioremediation process begin to degrade contaminants in the soil. Crew workers periodically make sure the microbes have enough oxygen by working the soil after it is spread about 8 inches thick in order to accelerate the process.

The bugs digest the hydrocarbon to convert them into carbon dioxide, water, and organic matter.

“Naturally, the soil at end of process becomes a very, very fertile material, sometimes more fertile than it was before the spill,” McQuade said.

He added that the process only works for hydrocarbon spills and not brine.

Since microorganisms hibernate in the winter, the project is expected to continue into next year.

McQuade said he’s meeting with policy makers and leaders of the Northwest Landowners Association regarding possible solutions to speed up the permitting process.

Bismarck Tribune