Optimization of washing conditions with biogenic mobilizing agents for marine fuel-contaminated beach sands

Alessia Arelli, Andrea Nuzzo, Claudia Sabia, Ibrahim M Banat, Giulio Zanaroli, Fabio Fava

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Washing is a rapid and effective treatment to remediate contaminated sands impacted by oil spills, although synthetic additives used to increase extraction efficiency may cause additional pollution issues due to their intrinsic toxicity and very often low biodegradability. In this study, different biogenic mobilizing agents (soybean lecithins, cyclodextrins, cholic acids, plant-derived cleaners, rhamnolipids and sophorolipids) were tested in the washing of beach sands artificially contaminated with the Intermediate Fuel Oil IFO-180. Among these, a de-oiled soybean lecithin (SL-1), hydroxypropyl-β-cyclodextrins (HPB-CD) and sophorolipids (SR) achieved hydrocarbon removals close to those attained with the synthetic surfactant Triton™ X-100 (TX) in preliminary washing tests carried out at constant mixing rate, water/sand ratio and IFO-180 contamination level using agents concentrations close to their critical micelle concentration (0.1% and 1% w/v for microbial and non-microbial agents, respectively). The effects of agent concentration, water/sand ratio, mixing rate and IFO-180 contamination on hydrocarbons removal were modelled using face-centred central composite design and ANOVA. Optimal washing parameters for sand contamination levels in the range 0.5-20 g/kg were identified with response surface methodology. While HPB-CD and SR performed equally to TX only at low sand contaminations, SL-1 attained hydrocarbon removal higher or equal to that of TX at any IFO-180 contamination and at lower application rates. SL-1 also outperformed TX when minimizing the water/sand ratio, i.e., the volume of water used. Considering its lower toxicity, higher biodegradability and higher hydrocarbon removal efficiencies, SL-1 is an effective and environmentally sustainable alternative to synthetic surfactants in washing treatments for marine fuel-contaminated sands.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNew Biotechnology
Early online date28 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished online - 28 Dec 2017


  • Sand washing
  • beach sand
  • response surface methodology
  • marine fuel
  • oil spill
  • biosurfactant


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