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Dangers of pollution by oil industry highlighted by Abertay academic

22 October 2013

An Abertay academic will address some of the biggest players in the oil industry at the Independent Union of the European Lubricants Industry (IUEL) Annual Congress in Brussels this Friday (October 25).

Dr Joe Akunna – who specialises in the treatment and management of pollution arising from the oil, gas, and petrochemicals industries – will speak to representatives from companies including Nynas, Petronas, Formula 1, Chevron and the European Commission. 

As well as highlighting the environmental impact of oil pollution, Dr Akunna will draw attention to the innovative research being carried out here at Abertay to help deal with its effects.

This includes the Urban Water Technology Centre’s work on Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems, and the department’s current research into the isolation of micro-organisms that breakdown oil.

Speaking ahead of the conference, Dr Akunna said:

“Oil can make its way into the environment in many different ways: through the poor handling and disposal of used lubrication oils for example, or when vehicles leak oil onto roads, or when farm machinery leaks oil into fields. This can then get into the foods we eat if absorbed into the soil where crops grow, which is dangerous because many oils contain harmful compounds such as heavy metal and poorly biodegradable organic micro-pollutants, which are toxic and carcinogenic to humans and animals.

“Oil pollution can also occur on a much larger scale, when there are accidents involving oil tankers or oil rigs at sea for example, or inappropriate disposal of used oils into the aquatic environment. In cases such as these, oil reduces oxygen availability in the water, killing off fish and birds that feed on them, so it’s important that we try to limit both small and large-scale oil spills.

“Fortunately, there are many things which can be done to prevent oil pollution, and an increasing number of ways in which oil contaminated soil can be treated. At Abertay, we work with water companies, environmental regulatory agencies, local authorities, manufacturers, and private sector companies, to help them reduce and manage the environmental impact of their activities.

“The fact that the IUEL have given me the opportunity to speak to their members is a clear sign that the oil industry is taking its effects on the environment seriously, and I hope that the details I provide on best practice will be adopted by the participants in their various organisations in the near future.”


For media enquiries please contact Kirsty Cameron T: 01382 308935 M: 01792172158 E:

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