Simultaneous hydrocarbon biodegradation and biosurfactant production by oilfield-selected bacteria

S Mnif, M Chamkha, M Labat, S Sayadi
Journal of Applied Microbiology 2011, 111 (3): 525-36

AIMS: To study the bacterial diversity associated with hydrocarbon biodegradation potentiality and biosurfactant production of Tunisian oilfields bacteria.

METHODS AND RESULTS: Eight Tunisian hydrocarbonoclastic oilfields bacteria have been isolated and selected for further characterization studies. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that three thermophilic strains belonged to the genera Geobacillus, Bacillus and Brevibacillus, and that five mesophilic strains belonged to the genera Pseudomonas, Lysinibacillus, Achromobacter and Halomonas. The bacterial strains were cultivated on crude oil as sole carbon and energy sources, in the presence of different NaCl concentrations (1, 5 and 10%, w/v), and at 37 or 55°C. The hydrocarbon biodegradation potential of each strain was quantified by GC-MS. Strain C450R, phylogenetically related to the species Pseudomonas aeruginosa, showed the maximum crude oil degradation potentiality. During the growth of strain C450R on crude oil (2%, v/v), the emulsifying activity (E24) and glycoside content increased and reached values of 77 and 1.33 g l(-1), respectively. In addition, the surface tension (ST) decreased from 68 to 35.1 mN m(-1), suggesting the production of a rhamnolipid biosurfactant. Crude biosurfactant had been partially purified and characterized. It showed interest stability against temperature and salinity increasing and important emulsifying activity against oils and hydrocarbons.

CONCLUSIONS: The results of this study showed the presence of diverse aerobic bacteria in Tunisian oilfields including mesophilic, thermophilic and halotolerant strains with interesting aliphatic hydrocarbon degradation potentiality, mainly for the most biosurfactant produced strains.

SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: It may be suggested that the bacterial isolates are suitable candidates for practical field application for effective in situ bioremediation of hydrocarbon-contaminated sites.

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