Liquid Nitrogen is Too Cool for Oil Spills
Vicky Qiu
David Thompson Secondary
Floor Location : M 019 V

Oil spills caused by oil leakage often result in serious and long-term environmental damage that can last for decades. It is an unwanted issue in North America that affects millions. Methods of cleaning up these oil spills are extremely noxious and harm our ecosystem. A common procedure that is resorted to in many oil spills often involves dispersants which are chemicals that are sprayed on a surface of oil slick, breaking down the oil into small droplets, allowing them to mix with water easily and dispersed into the underlying sea. The effects of these oil dispersants appeared to be more toxic than the untreated oil itself. These dispersants release harmful break-down products from oil that, alone or in combination with oil droplets and dispersant chemicals will damage the surrounding ecosystem.

The aim of this project is to apply an efficient and nontoxic method of cleaning up oil spills using liquid nitrogen. liquid nitrogen is essentially nitrogen gas in its liquid state. It will not have any harmful impact on marine life as its density is lower than water, meaning that it will float on top of the water and slowly evaporates. To start this experiment, different types of oil were poured into fresh water, as well as salt water to simulate an oil spill in diverse conditions. it is anticipated that, if liquid nitrogen is poured into the mixture of oil and water such that there is a 1:2 liquid nitrogen to oil ratio, then the oil will congeal and eventually solidify into a block of oil. The results of this experiment supported the hypothesis, as liquid nitrogen was able to freeze a large amount of oil and allowed one to remove the layer of frozen oil effortlessly using simple equipment such as a spoon. The purpose of the experiment was achieved, 98% of the oil was successfully removed from the water.