Engineering Bacteria for Production of Rhamnolipid as an Agent for Enhanced Oil Recovery


Rhamnolipid as a potent natural biosurfactant has a wide range of potential applications, including enhanced oil recovery (EOR), biodegradation, and bioremediation. Rhamnolipid is composed of rhamnose sugar molecule and β-hydroxyalkanoic acid. The rhamnosyltransferase 1 complex (RhlAB) is the key enzyme responsible for transferring the rhamnose moiety to the β-hydroxyalkanoic acid moiety to biosynthesize rhamnolipid. Through transposome-mediated chromosome integration, the RhlAB gene was inserted into the chromosome of the Pseudomonas aeruginosa PAO1-rhlA- and Escherichia coli BL21 (DE3), neither of which could produce rhamnolipid. After chromosome integration of the RhlAB gene, the constitute strains P. aeruginosa PEER02 and E. coli TnERAB did produce rhamnolipid. The HPLC/MS spectrum showed that the structure of purified rhamnolipid from P. aeruginosa PEER02 was similar to that from other P. aeruginosa strains, but with different percentage for each of the several congeners. The main congener (near 60%) of purified rhamnolipid from E. coli TnERAB was 3-(3-hydroxydecanoyloxy) decanoate (C10-C10) with mono-rhamnose. The surfactant performance of rhamnolipid was evaluated by measurement of interfacial tension (IFT) and oil recovery via sand-pack flooding tests. As expected, pH and salt concentration of the rhamnolipid solution significantly affected the IFT properties. With just 250 mg/L rhamnolipid (from P. aeruginosa PEER02 with soybean oil as substrate) in citrate-Na2HPO4, pH 5, 2% NaCl, 42% of oil otherwise trapped was recovered from a sand pack. This result suggests rhamnolipid might be considered for EOR applications.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Biosurfactant; Chromosomal insertion; Enhanced oil recovery; Interfacial tension; Rhamnolipid; Transposome; Bacteria; Biodegradation; Bioremediation; Biosynthesis; Chromosomes; Molecular structure; Sugars; Surface tension; alkanoic acid; beta hydroxyalkanoic acid; rhamnosyltransferase 1

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Article - Journal

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© 2007 John Wiley & Sons, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Nov 2007