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Cleaning up oil with peat moss

A small Norwegian company has a peat moss product that could come to play a surprising role in a key area. Kallak Torvstrøfabrikk’s peat moss turns out to be a highly effective absorbent for cleaning up oil spills.

Photo: Sverre Jarild Peat moss can be highly effective for cleaning up oil spills. (Photo: Sverre Jarild) In the summer of 2009, a Panama-registered freighter ran aground off Norway’s southeast coast, leading to significant oil contamination along the coastline. This gave Kallak Torvstrøfabrikk the chance to demonstrate the effectiveness of its new products, developed in collaboration with researchers from the SINTEF Group. The 100% organic peat moss absorbent proved to be worth its weight in gold in a crisis.

Simple to apply
“Our peat moss product can be strewn directly onto the oil floating in the water,” explains company founder Ragnar Kallak. “It absorbs the oil on contact and encapsulates it. Water does not penetrate the peat moss, so the encapsulated oil is trapped in a non-sticky crust which is easily removed from the surface of the water.”

Photo: Sverre Jarild Mr Ragnar Kallak (Photo: Sverre Jarild) Support from SkatteFUNN and competence brokering
The company’s development project qualified for participation under the SkatteFUNN tax deduction scheme, which is administered by the Research Council of Norway and allows up to a 20% tax deduction on R&D expenditures.

The company also received crucial support from competence broker Leif Estensen, who put them in touch with the appropriate researchers at SINTEF. It has only taken four years for the research institute and the local firm together to develop Kallak Absorbent.

“Without the assistance of a competence broker,” insists Mr Kallak, “we would never be where we are today. Small companies like ours find it tough to figure out who to contact in the academic community. But thanks to Mr Estensen, we now have established a number of good contacts we can build upon. Even though we have ‘the world’s best product’, a lot remains to be done before we have reached our goals.”


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