Experimental study of clay-hydrocarbon interactions relevant to the biodegradation of the Deepwater Horizon oil from the Gulf of Mexico

Laurence Warr, André Friese, Florian Schwarz, Frieder Schauer, Ralph Portier, Laura Basirico, Gregory Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Adding clay to marine oil pollution represents a promising approach to enhance bacterial hydrocarbon degradation in nutrient poor waters. In this study, three types of regionally available clays (Ca-bentonite, Fuller's Earth and kaolin) were tested to stimulate the biodegradation of source and weathered oil collected from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The weathered oil showed little biodegradation prior to experimentation and was extensively degraded by bacteria in the laboratory in a similar way as the alkane-rich source oil. For both oils, the addition of natural clay-flakes showed minor enhancement of oil biodegradation compared to the non-clay bearing control, but the clay-oil films did limit evaporation. Only alkanes of a molecular weight (MW) > 420 showed significant reduction by enhanced biodegradation following natural clay treatment. In contrast, all fertilized clay flakes showed major bacterial degradation of the oil, with a 6–10 times reduction in alkane content, and an up to 8 fold increase in the rate of O2 consumption. Compared to the control, such treatment showed particular reduction of longer chained alkanes (MW > 226). The application of natural and fertilized clay flakes also showed selective reduction of PAHs, mainly in the MW range of 200–300, but without significant change in the toxicity indices measured. These results imply that a large variety of clays may be used to boost oil biodegradation by aiding attachment of fertilizing nutrients to the oil.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-221
JournalChemosphere
Volume162
Early online date4 Aug 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016

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