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Thermophilic biodegradation of BTEX by two consortia of anaerobic bacteria

Chen, C.I., Taylor, R.T.
Applied microbiology and biotechnology 1997 v.48 no.1 pp. 121-128
BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene), benzene, biodegradation, blood serum, bottles, carbon, energy, ethylbenzene, fuels, hydrogen sulfide, mineralization, oil fields, sulfate-reducing bacteria, sulfates, temperature, toluene, xylene, Alaska
Two thermophilic anaerobic bacterial consortia (ALK-1 and LLNL-1) capable of degrading the aromatic fuel hydrocarbons, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and the xylenes (BTEX compounds), were developed at 60 degrees C from the produced water of ARCO'S Kuparuk oil field at Alaska and the subsurface water at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory gasoline-spill site, respectively. Both consortia were found to grow at 45-75 degrees on BTEX compounds as their sole carbon and energy sources with 50 degrees C being the optimal temperature. With 3.5 mg total BTEX added to sealed 50-ml serum bottles, which contained 30 ml mineral salts medium and the consortium, benzene, toluene, ethylbenze, m-xylene, and an unresolved mixture of o- and p-xylenes were biodegraded by 22%, 38%, 42%, 40%, and 38%, respectively, by ALK-1 after 14 days of incubation at 50 degrees C. Somewhat lower, but significant, percentages of the BTEX compounds also were biodegraded at 60 degrees C and 70 degrees C. The extent of biodegradation of these BTEX compounds by LLNL-1 at each of these three temperatures was sligthtly less than that achieved by ALK-1. Use of [ring-14C]toluene in the BTEX mixture incubated at 50 degrees C verified that 41% and 31% of the biodegraded toluene was metabolized within 14 days to water-soluble products by ALK-1 and LLNL-1, respectively. A small fraction of it was mineralized to 14CO2. The use of [U-14C]benzene revealed that 2.6%-4.3% of the biodegraded benzene was metabolized at 50 degrees C to water-soluble products by the two consortia; however, no mineralization of the degraded [U-14C]benzene to 14CO2 was observed. The biodegradation of BTEX at all three temperatures by both consortia was tightly coupled to sulfate reduction as well as H2S generation. None was observed when sulfate was omitted from the serum bottles. This suggests that sulfate-reducing bacteria are most likely responsible for the observed thermophilic biodegradation of BTEX in both consortial cultures.