WILLISTON, N.D. — An oil industry company is trying to establish a biological process in which oil-eating bacteria are used to clean up a spill with the help of a Williston-based research center.
Rick Reese, founder and CEO of Colorado-based Compliant Resources, calls his method aggressive bioremediation instead of land farming, a similar concept, mainly because it's seen limited success.
"Land farming in the oil field is almost a dirty word, and for a good reason," Reese said. "It's been tried between Williston and Denver, at least 100 times and maybe even 200, and there are only two documented successes."
While visiting the Bakken formation in the North Dakota-Montana border, Reese was able to develop his ideas and arrive at a successful grant proposal for a study involving the Williston Research Extension Center. After speaking with center director Jerry Bergman and soil science expert James Staricka, Reese discovered the missing component in many oilfield-led efforts was agricultural expertise.
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"There are hundreds of examples of oil field companies who have gone and tried to do this, and they just don't get it because they don't know a Dr. Bergman, and they don't know agronomy," Reese said. "They are engineers."
The goal of Reese's process is to remediate oil-contaminated soil and improve the soil so it's better than it was before the spill.
"I'm taking an old idea and adding accepted agricultural practices and adding things to it like oxygen and enriched water and Leonardite," Reese said. "I think we can take those diesel-laden cuttings and use bacteria to degrade the diesel and get it to a point where it's not only environmentally neutral, but create a mix that will be second to none."
Reese hopes to send samples for test plots to the Williston Research Extension Center greenhouse in early 2016, and then begin testing before April.