River cleaning: how to protect waters

Oil spills in rivers: The blind spot of water protection

There are few ecological disasters that arouse indignation and a desire for change like oil spills into the seas. We still remember the images of oil tankers and the “oil spill” coming out of those gigantic ships. However, one type of event is often ignored: the spillage of oils into rivers. In fact, how many ecological river disasters can we remember? Not many. The reason is that the magnitude of such events is not resonant enough to be mentioned in the news. Also, is a phenomenon of extended intensity and it is diluted over time.

The invisible threat to rivers and waters

Does this mean that they are less relevant in the ecological context? Not at all. In fact, it is proven that river oil spills are the major source of oil pollution in the seas. The second point – probably stemming from the same cause – is the lack of extensive and updated scientific literature on the specific characteristics that make river spills very different from marine ones. This leads to a deficit in the methodologies of action against such events.

Key differences between river spills and marine spills

A study from 2021 provides an overview of the relevant literature This study identifies three characteristics that distinguish river oil spills from marine ones:

1) The water column of the watercourse that disperses or retains the oil mass;
2) The formation and action of oil-particles aggregates (OPA);
3) The interaction of oil with the shore.

In addition to these, the specific features of the river in question must also be considered. Whether it is a torrent or a river with a strong current, the characteristics of the banks, and any variations in height on the riverbed that lead to the formation of rapids.

River Cleanup: River Oil – innovative technology to protect water from oil spills

The central theme concerning oil spill into water courses is the low ability to understand their physical and hydrogeological characteristics, as well as the lack of awareness of the size of the problem. A technology that is capable of addressing this issue beyond a single emergency intervention, which is common during marine spills, has not yet been developed.

In this context the new River Cleaning project, River Oil, comes in action. This system operates with the same logic as River Cleaning Plastics. I.e. a system of floating buoys operated by the river current capable of collecting oil spills present on the surface. At the moment, the development path includes two systems “River Cleaning Oil – Absorption Plug-In” and “River Cleaning Oil – Full Filtering”. The first for small spills that only need to be absorbed and then disposed of. The second for most consistent spills: it works by sucking up and storing the spilled oils on the shore.

System River Plastic (pilot plant installed at Rosà (VI) by River Cleaning

River Oil: technology to combat oil pollution in rivers

The characteristics of oil pollution in rivers make cleaning activities not easily standardized. In particular it seems that there aren’t technologies suitable for this purpose. If not in minimum part of cleaning the banks and sediments which accumulate in them. As in the case of the Niger Delta near Obodo, where the spills on the river could not in any way be countered in their flow towards the sea, due also to the length of the river path, but only the intervention of the mangroves on the environment could. River Oil can in fact represent a real “game changer” in the fight against oily waste: a 24/24 operating system with no energy costs, effective and applicable. It is also clear that this technology may have room for applicability even in large marine spills, such as the Deepwater Horizon accident in 2010.

River spills: the need for instant and continuous technologies to protect waters

Moreover, oil spills in rivers are in some circumstances caused by poor or non-existent control of industrial and refinery spills. While counting on an ever-increasing awareness of the sustainability of waste produced by industrial activities, in the past we have faced episodes such as in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, where low maintenance caused the spillage of tons of industrial oils. In general, the level of spillage may not occur intensely but may indeed dilute even over many years. This makes it essential, in addition to greater awareness – even at a legislative level – for the existence of technologies capable of operating instantly and continuously with respect to these phenomena.

River Cleaning Oil: the self-powered solution for the prevention of oil pollution

River Cleaning Oil wants to be exactly this kind of technology. Adaptable, automatic, self-powered and non-invasive. Its ability to operate across the width of the river, relentlessly, currently provides the best technological solution for the intervention and prevention of oily pollution. Furthermore, a continuous research and development process would be able, thanks to the innovative but simple design and concept, to be largely scalable and developable and to exponentially increase the impact capacity of this technology. River Cleaning technology together with a continuous process of data collection and expertise can make the defense of waterways and seas one of the most effective systems globally.

Neutralizing oil pollution: a global priority for sustainable development

While waiting for the reorganization of the industrial and refinery waste collection and management systems to become substantial, it is necessary to neutralize as much as possible the levels of pollution that we are currently suffering from. Finally, this can also be considered an area in which several actors are called into question, responding to the global goal of creating partnerships for solving sustainable development problems.

Francesco Castellano

Francesco Castellano holds a Master degree in Business Administration, and he has gathered almost twenty years of experience in research, finance, consulting, and business management. During this time, he was engaged in different types of projects as a consultant at Bain & Company, launched Uber operations in Turin, and worked in the FP&A department at General Electric.Lately, he founded To... Read more

Francesco Castellano holds a Master degree in Business Administration, and he has gathered almost twenty years of experience in research, finance, consulting, and business management. During this time, he was engaged in different types of projects as a consultant at Bain & Company, launched Uber operations in Turin, and worked in the FP&A department at General Electric.

Lately, he founded Tondo, a cluster of organizations focusing on spreading Circular Economy approaches and concepts, and supporting companies in the transition to a clean and circular future. Francesco is also the ideator and coordinator of the Re-think Circular Economy Forum, a format of events organized in many different locations in Italy showcasing the most relevant Circular Economy solutions.

Francesco has been a guest speaker at different universities and events, like Federico II University, Bocconi University, LIUC - Cattaneo University, Pavia University, Padua University, Catholic University, IPE Business School, 24ORE Business School, Campus Party, Torino Stratosferica, Visionary Days.

Francesco is passionate about Circular Economy, Cleantech Innovations, Venture Building and Entrepreneurship.