Environmental science & technology

Sequential chemical oxidation and aerobic biodegradation of equivalent carbon number-based hydrocarbon fractions in jet fuel.

PMID 14594388


Remediation of petroleum mixtures is complicated by the differing environmental degradabilities of hundreds of individual hydrocarbons in the mixtures. By grouping the individual hydrocarbons into a few fractions based on equivalent carbon number (EC), the present study examined the chemical and biological degradation of the fractions. With or without prechemical oxidation (25 days) by three oxidants (KMnO4, H202, MgO2), sterile and live microcosms were constituted with aquifer samples for aerobic biodegradation (134 days) of JP-4 jet fuel. Eighty-seven hydrocarbons were recovered and grouped into nine EC fractions. The apparent removal and actual transformation rate constants were estimated for both chemical and biological degradations. The data show that prechemical oxidations facilitated removal of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH) (up to 80%) within shorter times (<50 days) than biological alone. KMnO4 and H202 were better oxidants in terms of mass reduction in shorter times yet to some extent inhibited the subsequent microbial activity. MgO2 was a moderate oxidant with less inhibition of microbial activity. Selective degradation of the EC fractions was observed for both chemical and biological processes. The biological processes were much less effective than the prechemical oxidations in transforming aromatic fractions, the more toxic fractions. The favorable substrates (i.e., aliphatic EC approximately 10) for microbial growth were also those most subject to chemical oxidation. The results suggest that for remediation of petroleum contaminants, sequential chemical and biological technologies may surpass biological alone and more moderate oxidants such as MgO2 may be better candidates. More work is needed on the optimal dose and residence time for applied oxidants and on the application to engineering design and formulation of cleanup standards.