, Volume 11, Issue 2–3, pp 107–116 | Cite as

Anaerobic benzene degradation

  • Derek R. Lovley


Although many studies have indicated that benzene persists under anaerobic conditions in petroleum-contaminated environments, it has recently been documented that benzene can be anaerobically oxidized with most commonlyconsidered electron acceptors for anaerobic respiration. These include: Fe(III),sulfate, nitrate, and possibly humic substances. Benzene can also be convertedto methane and carbon dioxide under methanogenic conditions. There is evidencethat benzene can be degraded under in situ conditions in petroleum-contaminatedaquifers in which either Fe(III) reduction or methane production is the predominant terminal electron-accepting process. Furthermore, evidence from laboratory studies suggests that benzene may be anaerobically degraded in petroleum-contaminated marine sediments under sulfate-reducing conditions. Laboratory studies have suggested that within the Fe(III) reduction zone of petroleum-contaminated aquifers, benzene degradation can be stimulated with the addition of synthetic chelators which make Fe(III) more available for microbial reduction. The addition of humic substances and other compounds that contain quinone moieties can also stimulate anaerobic benzene degradation in laboratory incubations of Fe(III)-reducing aquifer sediments by providing an electron shuttle between Fe(III)-reducing microorganisms and insoluble Fe(III) oxides. Anaerobic benzene degradation in aquifer sediments can be stimulated with the addition of sulfate, but in some instances an inoculum of benzene-oxidizing,sulfate-reducing microorganisms must also be added. In a field trial, sulfate addition to the methanogenic zone of a petroleum-contaminated aquifer stimulated the growth and activity of sulfate-reducing microorganisms and enhanced benzene removal. Molecular phylogenetic studies have provided indications of what microorganisms might be involved in anaerobic benzene degradation in aquifers. The major factor limiting further understanding of anaerobic benzene degradation is the lack of a pure culture of an organism capable of anaerobic benzene degradation.

bioremediation Fe(III) reduction methanogenesis subsurfce microbiology sulfate reduciton 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derek R. Lovley
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyUniversity of MassachusettsAmherstUSA.

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