Effects of chemical dispersants on the rate of microbial decomposition of crude petroleum in aqueous system



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This thesis presents the results of a study of the effects of chemical dispersing agents on the rate of bacterial decomposition of petroleum in aqueous systems. The Warburg respirometric technique was used to follow the oxygen uptake of bacteria in the presence of emulsions formed by treating oil and water samples with proprietary dispersing agents. The influences of dispersant concentration and of energy expended in forming the emulsions were examined. A mixed microbial culture was used in the experiments. The results of the study indicate that certain dispersants increased the rate of microbial destruction of petroleum by as much as eighteen times that of an untreated oil/water mixture. These chemical formulations would be useful aids in cleaning oil spills in various aquatic environments. The test procedure used in this study provides a method for screening dispersing agents for such use. A review of recent literature on oil spills and on microbial decomposition of petroleum hydrocarbons is reported. The results obtained in the study are presented and discussed.