Cleaning Oiled Shores: Laboratory Experiments Testing the Potential Use of Vegetable Oil Biodiesels

Chemosphere. 2004 Jan;54(3):297-304. doi: 10.1016/s0045-6535(03)00665-9.


A series of laboratory experiments were carried out to test the potential of vegetable oil biodiesel for the cleaning of oiled shorelines. In batch experiments, biodiesel was shown to have a considerable capacity to dissolve crude oil, which appears to be dependent on the type of biodiesel used. Pure vegetable oil biodiesels (rapeseed and soybean) were significantly more effective in the cleanup of oiled sands (up to 96%) than recycled waste cooking oil biodiesel (70%). In microcosm and mesocosm experiments, oiled sediments were sprayed with biodiesel and subjected to simulated tides. Microcosm experiments revealed that, of those tested, the highest ratio of biodiesel to crude oil, had the highest effectiveness for cleaning fine sands, with ratios of 2:1 (biodiesel:crude oil) giving the best results. In the mesocosm experiments a ratio 1:1 of soybean biodiesel to crude oil removed 80% of the oil in cobbles and fine sands, 50% in coarse sand and 30% in gravel. Most of the oil was removed with the surface water, with only a small amount being flushed through the sediments. Particle size and pore size were important determinants in the cleanup and mobility of crude oil in the sediments in these static systems. It is expected that the biodiesel effectiveness should improve in the natural environment particularly in exposed beaches with strong wave action. However, more laboratory and field trials are required to confirm the operational use of biodiesel as a shoreline cleaner.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Pollution / prevention & control*
  • Particle Size
  • Petroleum
  • Plant Oils / chemistry*
  • Silicon Dioxide
  • Water Movements


  • Petroleum
  • Plant Oils
  • Silicon Dioxide