Oilzapper/ Oilovorous- oil-eating bacteria

Abhishek Mitra
3 min readDec 8, 2020

In the process of hiring an academic writer, I came across one that especially attracted me. I had a chance to go through the research work of the candidate and her work was on something that enthralls me even today.

Her work was on Oilovorous.

According to TERI

This is not about a movie script but a real achievement, the Oilzapper. Developed by TERI after seven years of research work and partly supported by the DBT (Department of Biotechnology), Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India, the Oilzapper is essentially a cocktail of five different bacterial strains that are immobilized and mixed with a carrier material (powdered corncob).

Much as its savvy name suggests, the Oilzapper feeds on hydrocarbon compounds present in crude oil and oily sludge (a hazardous hydrocarbon waste generated by oil refineries) and converts them into harmless CO2 and water.

The Oilzapper is neatly packed into sterile polythene bags and sealed aseptically for safe transport. The shelf life of the product is three months at ambient temperature.

One of the biggest and most frequent threats for any oil refinery is oil sludge. There are 16 refineries in India and all create toxic waste. Estimates suggest that about 20 000 tonnes of petroleum sludge is generated every year. At present, refineries have to construct polymer-lined pits with a special leachate collection system to prevent the dumped sludge from leaking into the earth and groundwater. A pit costs about 10 million rupees and each refinery needs several such pits. With more refineries being set up, space is always a constraint. What’s more, a pit gets filled up in three to four years whereas with Oilzapper, one just needs 200 tonnes of environment-friendly bacteria to clean up 20 000 tonnes of oily waste!

When an oil spill occurs at sea, oil floats above water since it is lighter. It therefore catches fire swiftly, endangering the ecosystem for all times. Oil spills on land (due to leakage from pipelines, pilferage, etc.) too cause fire hazards and pollute groundwater and air. With Oilzapper, a contamination of 20% (say, 200 grams per kilogram of oil) can be taken care of in two months. A blessing for the oil exploration and production sites and oil refineries, the Oilzapper has proven particularly relevant in the wake of the everincreasing movement of oil across land and water, the many oil-transport related accidents in the past and oil waste management issues at the refineries.

Given the cost of the product, it is feasible for usage in hotel and restaurant kitchen cleaning, shipyards, in cleaning drainage pipes along with proteases, in cleaning refinery pipes, and so on.

We all know drain cleaners we use in cleaning drain pipes. The price of the oil zapper/Oilovorous is well within reach and its ability to clean refinery and drain pipes is high. Quantitative estimation needs to be done as to how much of quantity and price can be afforded if it is used in conjunction with corrosive alkaline drain cleaners.

Moreover, it is the most effective way to clean oil spills either on land and water.

The usages of cleaning large swathes of oil degraded land sites have been realized but small scale and commercial applications like cleaning drainages, industrial units where large scale oil and machine applications are there, and in cleaning distilleries ( owing to its hydrocarbon consumption-ability ) are yet to be realized in full potential.

Some areas where it can be used to advantage

It can also be used in cosmetic industries and other industries where the by-product is oily and is released into the atmosphere. Well, these are possible cases and applications where the product may be used.



Abhishek Mitra

Sr. Content and Business Writer having over 10+years of Content and Digital Marketing Experience