Enhanced Hydrocarbons Biodegradation at Deep-Sea Hydrostatic Pressure with Microbial Electrochemical Snorkels

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In anaerobic sediments, microbial degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons is limited by the rapid depletion of electron acceptors (e.g., ferric oxide, sulfate) and accumulation of toxic metabolites (e.g., sulfide, following sulfate reduction). Deep-sea sediments are increasingly impacted by oil contamination, and the elevated hydrostatic pressure (HP) they are subjected to represents an additional limitation for microbial metabolism. While the use of electrodes to support electrobioremediation in oil-contaminated sediments has been described, there is no evidence on their applicability for deep-sea sediments. Here, we tested a passive bioelectrochemical system named ”oil-spill snorkel” with two crude oils carrying different alkane contents (4 vs. 15%), at increased or ambient HP (10 vs. 0.1 MPa). Snorkels enhanced alkanes biodegradation at both 10 and 0.1 MPa within only seven weeks, as compared to nonconductive glass controls. Microprofiles in anaerobic, contaminated sediments indicated that snorkels kept sulfide concentration to low titers. Bulk-sediment analysis confirmed that sulfide oxidation by snorkels largely regenerated sulfate. Hence, the sole application of snorkels could eliminate a toxicity factor and replenish a spent electron acceptor at increased HP. Both aspects are crucial for petroleum decontamination of the deep sea, a remote environment featured by low metabolic activity.
Original languageEnglish
Article number263
JournalCatalysts
Volume11
Issue2
Number of pages11
ISSN2073-4344
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

    Research areas

  • Alkanes, Crude oil, Deep sea, Hydrostatic pressure, Sulfate, Sulfide

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