In Situ Rhamnolipid Production at an Abandoned Petroleum Refinery


A simple screening method was developed to detect in situ biosurfactant production by exploiting the relationship between surface tension (ST) and surfactant concentration. Filtered groundwater from contaminated wells with ST values of 60 to 70 dynes/cm decreased to 29 dynes/cm after being concentrated 10 to 15 times in a rotary evaporator, indicating that biosurfactants in the sample reached the critical micelle concentration (CMC). Samples from uncontaminated groundwater concentrated 25 times showed no decrease in ST below 72 dynes/cm, suggesting that biosurfactants were not present. Microorganisms from soil cores were cultured on diesel fuel and identified using fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) analysis. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was found at very low numbers in uncontaminated soil but was the dominant species in contaminated soil, indicating that hydrocarbon release impacted microbial diversity significantly. High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) was used to quantify rhamnolipids, biosurfactants produced by P. aeruginosa, in concentrated groundwater samples. Rhamnolipid concentrations in samples from contaminated soil were observed equal to their CMC (50 mg/L), but were not detected in samples from uncontaminated wells. We conclude that biosurfactant production may be an indicator of intrinsic bioremediation.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Concentration (process); Critical Micelle Concentration; Fatty Acids; Petroleum Refineries; Soils; Surface Active Agents; Toxic Materials; Biosurfactants; Contaminated Soils; Rhamnolipids; Lipids; Pseudomonas Aeruginosa; Biosurfactant; Groundwater; Hydrocarbon; Rhamnolipid; Surface Tension

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Document Type

Article - Journal

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© 2002 Taylor & Francis, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Jun 2002