Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology

, Volume 167, Issue 6, pp 1560-1568

First online:

Biodegradation of Crude Oil from the BP Oil Spill in the Marsh Sediments of Southeast Louisiana, USA

  • Raj BoopathyAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Nicholls State University Email author 
  • , Sara ShieldsAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Mississippi State University
  • , Siva NunnaAffiliated withDepartment of Biological Sciences, Nicholls State University

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The significant challenges presented by the April 20, 2010 explosion, sinking, and subsequent oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform in Canyon Block 252 about 52 miles southeast of Venice, LA, USA greatly impacted Louisiana’s coastal ecosystem including the sea food industry, recreational fishing, and tourism. The short-term and long-term impact of this oil spill are significant, and the Deepwater Horizon spill is potentially both an economic and an ecological disaster. Microbes present in the water column and sediments have the potential to degrade the oil. Oil degradation could be enhanced by biostimulation method. The conventional approach to bioremediation of petroleum hydrocarbon is based on aerobic processes. Anaerobic bioremediation has been tested only in a very few cases and is still considered experimental. The currently practiced conventional in situ biorestoration of petroleum-contaminated soils and ground water relies on the supply of oxygen to the subsurface to enhance natural aerobic processes to remediate the contaminants. However, anaerobic microbial processes can be significant in oxygen-depleted subsurface environments and sediments that are contaminated with petroleum-based compounds such as oil-impacted marshes in Louisiana. The goal of this work was to identify the right conditions for the indigenous anaerobic bacteria present in the contaminated sites to enhance degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons. We evaluated the ability of microorganisms under a variety of electron acceptor conditions to degrade petroleum hydrocarbons. Researched microbial systems include sulfate-, nitrate-reducing bacteria, and fermenting bacteria. The results indicated that anaerobic bacteria are viable candidates for bioremediation. Enhanced biodegradation was attained under mixed electron acceptor conditions, where various electron-accepting anaerobes coexisted and aided in degrading complex petroleum hydrocarbon components of marsh sediments in the coastal Louisiana. Significant degradation of oil also occurred under sulfate-reducing and nitrate-reducing conditions.


Oil spill Petroleum hydrocarbon Anaerobic degradation Electron acceptors Food chain