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Chapter 15 : Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers

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Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, Page 1 of 2

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Abstract:

Fuel oxygenates, including ethers such as methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE), and tert-amyl methyl ether (TAME), as well as alcohols such as tert-butyl alcohol (TBA), tert-amyl alcohol, and ethanol, have been added to gasoline since the mid 1970s, especially to improve air quality. The major part of the contamination appeared to be related to leaking underground storage tanks used for gasoline storage; the detection of MTBE in water occurred four to six times more frequently in areas using reformulated gasolines (RFGs) than in areas not using RFGs, with 20% of the samples containing MTBE. Fuel ethers are not easily biodegradable compared with less-water-soluble compounds in gasoline, such as monoaromatic hydrocarbons (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes). Although difficult to carry out, microbial degradation was found to be possible. Apart from the few microorganisms that are able to use fuel ethers as sole carbon and energy sources, other strains need a cosubstrate to degrade them by cometabolism. The possible pathways for the cometabolic biodegradation of MTBE are summarized in this chapter. Natural attenuation of MTBE in groundwater is mainly caused by dispersion, dissolution, and biodegradation. Fuel ethers constitute a good example of xenobiotics recently released in diverse environments: air, soils, surface waters, and groundwater. Their persistence in the environment deserves extensive microbiological investigation to better understand the reasons for their poor natural biodegradation. The results presented in the chapter suggest that the MTBE catabolic pathway would be the result of randomly associated enzymatic activities.

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15

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Cytochrome P450
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Carbon monoxide
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Chemicals
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Figures

Image of FIGURE 1
FIGURE 1

Structure of the ethers used as fuel oxygenates and their corresponding alcohols.

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
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Image of FIGURE 2
FIGURE 2

MTBE biodegradation pathway. Pathway steps and references: (1), Hardison et al., 1997; (2), Steffan et al., 1997; (3), Hanson et al., 1999; (4), Hyman et al., 2000; (5), Hernandez-Perez et al., 2001; (6), Hatzinger et al., 2001; (7), François et al., 2002; (8), Smith et al., 2003a; (9), François et al., 2003; (10), Johnson et al., 2004; (11), Deeb et al., 2000.

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
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Image of FIGURE 3
FIGURE 3

Structure of genes in R. IFP 2001 (A) and their loss by recombination events (B and C). (A) The locus (hatched) contains the following genes (areas or functions encoded by each gene are listed in parentheses): (putative regulator), (ferredoxin reductase), (cytochrome P450), (ferredoxin), and (protein of unknown function). The cross-hatched regions corresponding to the two copies of the transposon contain the genes (encoding transposase), (encoding interrupted resolvase), and the IS3 insertion sequence. (B) Homologous recombination between the two copies of the transposon leading to the excision and loss of the region containing the genes and leaving a single copy of the transposon in the genome (C). (Reprinted from Béguin et al. [2003] with permission.)

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
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Image of FIGURE 4
FIGURE 4

Putative ETBE biodegradation pathway in R. IFP 2001. (Reprinted from with permission.)

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
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References

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Tables

Generic image for table
TABLE 1

Physical and chemical characteristics and properties of fuel ethers

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
Generic image for table
TABLE 2

Effect of ether addition to gasoline on the emission of pollutants in exhaust pipe gases

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
Generic image for table
TABLE 3

Regulation of MTBE concentration in water in the United States

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
Generic image for table
TABLE 4

Microorganisms able to degrade MTBE by cometabolism

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
Generic image for table
TABLE 5

Microorganisms growing on MTBE and their growth efficiency on MTBE or its degradation intermediates

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15
Generic image for table
TABLE 6

Examples of in situ bioremediation treatments of MTBE-contaminated sites

Citation: Fayolle F, Monot F. 2005. Biodegradation of Fuel Ethers, p 301-316. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch15

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