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Bioremediation of oil contaminated fine sediments

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Martin Jones, Dr Stuart Petch, Professor Ian Head


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Bioremediation of oil contamination has been shown to be effective for cobble and sandy shorelines. To assess the operational limitations of this technology, this project studied its potential to treat buried oil in fine sediments. The effectiveness of bioremediation by nutrient enrichment with water-soluble mineral fertilizers was quantified experimentally with a randomised block design with three replicate blocks. Each block consisted of an untreated control plot, a plot treated with fertilizer alone, an oiled plot and an oiled plot treated with fertilizer. The sediment in each plot was retained in mesh enclosures and buried at a depth of 0.15m. Weathered and emulsified Arabian Light crude oil was applied to the appropriate plots at 3.7 kg.m -2. Bioremediation success was monitored by examining in situ CO 2 production rates, changes in residual hydrocarbons normalized to 17α(H), 21β(H) - hopane and the response of hydrocarbon-degrading micro-organisms. Fertilizer treatments significantly increased the biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons (p=0.0001) in the buried sediments. These conclusions were supported by in situ CO2 production data. Microbiological analyses showed that nutrient addition increased the numbers of hydrocarbon-degraders on the oiled plots 10 fold. The results clearly show that bioremediation can treat oil buried in fine sediment following a spill incident.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Swannell RPJ, Mitchell D, Jones DM, Petch S, Head IM, Willis A, Lee K, Lepo JE

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 2005 International Oil Spill Conference, IOSC 2005

Year of Conference: 2005

Pages: 698-706