, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 341–352 | Cite as

Anaerobic biodegradation of vegetable oil and its metabolic intermediates in oil-enriched freshwater sediments

  • Zhengkai Li
  • Brian A. Wrenn
  • Albert D. Venosa


Anaerobic biodegradation of vegetable oil in freshwater sediments is strongly inhibited by high concentrations of oil, but the presence of ferric hydroxide relieves the inhibition. The effect of ferric hydroxide is not due to physical or chemical interactions with long-chain fatty acids (LCFAs) that are produced as intermediates during metabolism of vegetable-oil triglycerides. The anaerobic biodegradation of canola oil and mixtures of acetic and oleic acids, two important intermediates of vegetable-oil metabolism, were investigated using sediments enriched on canola oil under methanogenic and iron-reducing conditions to determine whether the effect of ferric hydroxide has a biological basis. Sediments enriched under both conditions rapidly and completely converted canola oil to methane when the initial oil concentration was relatively low (1.9 g oil/kg sediments), but the biotransformation was strongly inhibited in sediments enriched under methanogenic conditions when the initial concentration was 19 g/kg (<30% of the oil-derived electron equivalents were transferred to methane in a 420-day incubation period). Sediments enriched under iron-reducing conditions, however, completely transformed canola oil to methane in about 250 days at this initial oil concentration. The anaerobic biotransformation of mixtures of acetate and oleic acid followed a similar pattern: the rate and extent of conversion of these electron-donor substrates to methane was always higher in sediments enriched under iron-reducing than under methanogenic conditions. These results suggest that enrichment on canola oil in the presence of ferric hydroxide selects a microbial community that is less sensitive to inhibition by LCFAs than the community that develops during enrichment under methanogenic conditions.


anaerobic biodegradation fatty acid inhibition iron reducers vegetable oil 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Angelidaki, I, Petersen, SP, Ahring, BK 1990Effects of lipids on the thermophilic anaerobic digestion and reduction of lipid inhibition upon addition of bentoniteAppl. Microbiol. Biotechnol.33469472Google Scholar
  2. Atlas, RM, Bartha, R 1973Inhibition by fatty acids of the biodegradation of petroleumAntonie van Leeuwenhoek39257271Google Scholar
  3. Bell, GH 1971The action of monocarboxylic acids on Candida tropicalis growing on hydrocarbon substratesAntonie van Leeuwenhoek37385400Google Scholar
  4. Bilous, PT, Weiner, JH 1985Dimethyl sulfoxide reductase activity by anaerobically grown Escherichia coli HB101J. Bacteriol.16211511155Google Scholar
  5. Biebl, H, Zeng, A-P, Menzel, K, Deckwer, W-D 1998Fermentation of glycerol to 1,3-propanediol and 2,3-butanediol by Klebsiella pneumoniaeAppl. Microbiol. Biotech.502429Google Scholar
  6. Brennan, RA, Nirmalakhandan, N, Speece, RE 1998Comparison of predictive methods for Henrys Law coefficients of organic chemicalsWater Res.3219011911Google Scholar
  7. Broughton, MJ, Thiele, JH, Birch, EJ, Cohen, A 1998Anaerobic batch digestion of sheep tallowWater Res.3214231428Google Scholar
  8. Calanog, SA, Chen, JY, Toia, RF 1999Preliminary evaluation of potential impacts of non-petroleum oils on the aquatic environments. In: Proceedings1999 International Oil Spill Conference. American Petroleum Institute.Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  9. Christensen, KR, Reineccius, GA 1992Gas-chromatographic analysis of volatile sulfur-compounds from heated milk using static headspace samplingJ. Dairy Sci.7520982104CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cord-Ruwisch, R, Lovley, DR, Schink, B 1998Growth of Geobacter sulfurreducens with acetate in syntrophic cooperation with hydrogen-oxidizing anaerobic partnersAppl. Environ. Microbiol.6422322236Google Scholar
  11. Crump-Wiesner, HJ, Jennings, AI 1975Properties and effects of nonpetroleum oils. In: Proceedings1975 Oil Spill Conference. American Petroleum InstituteWashington, DC2932Google Scholar
  12. Federal Register (1997) 40 CFR Part 112. Oil pollution prevention; non-transportation related onshore facilities. 62 (No. 202, October 20): 54508-54543 Google Scholar
  13. Griebler, C 1997Dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) reduction: a new approach to determine microbial activity in freshwater sedimentsJ. Microbiol. Meth.293140Google Scholar
  14. Jonkers, HM, vanderMaarel, MJEC, vanGemerden, H, Hansen, TA 1996Dimethylsulfoxide reduction by marine sulfate-reducing bacteriaFEMS Microbiol. Lett.136283287Google Scholar
  15. Hanaki, K, Matsuo, T, Nagase, M 1981Mechanisms of inhibition caused by long-chain fatty acids in anaerobic digestion processBiotech. Bioeng.2315911610Google Scholar
  16. Heron, G, Crouzel, D, Bourg, ACM, Christensen, TH 1994Speciation of Fe(II) and Fe(III) in contaminated aquifer sediments using chemical extraction techniquesEnviron. Sci. Technol.2816981705Google Scholar
  17. Hwu, CS, Donlon, B, Lettinga, G 1996Comparative toxicity of long chain fatty acid to anaerobic sludge from various originsWater Sci. Tech.34351358Google Scholar
  18. Koster, IW, Cramer, A 1987Inhibition of methanogenesis from acetate in granular sludge by long chain fatty acidsAppl. Environ. Microbiol.53403409Google Scholar
  19. Lalman, JA, Bagley, DM 2000Anaerobic degradation and inhibition effects of linoleic acidWater Res.3442204228Google Scholar
  20. Lalman, JA, Bagley, DM 2002Effects of C18 long chain fatty acids on glucose, butyrate and hydrogen degradationWater Res.3633073313Google Scholar
  21. Li, Z, Wincele, DE, Wrenn, BA 2001Anaerobic biodegradation of vegetable oil spills. In: Proceedings2001 International Oil Spill Conference (pp. 315–321). American Petroleum InstituteWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  22. Li Z & Wrenn BA (in press) Effects of ferric hydroxide on the anaerobic biodegradation kinetics and toxicity of vegetable oil in freshwater sediments. Water Res.Google Scholar
  23. Lorenzen, J, Steinwachs, S, Unden, G 1994DMSO respiration by the anaerobic rumen bacterium Wolinella succinogenesArch. Microbiol.162277281Google Scholar
  24. Lovley, DR 1991Dissimilatory Fe(III) and Mn(IV) reductionMicrobiol. Rev.55259287Google Scholar
  25. Lovley, DR 2000Dissimilatory Fe(III)- and Mn(IV)-reducing prokaryotesDworkin, M eds. The Prokaryotes, Release 3.4Springer-VerlagNew York, NYGoogle Scholar
  26. Lovley, DR, Philips, EJP 1986Availability of ferric iron for microbial reduction in bottom sediments of the freshwater tidal Potomac RiverAppl. Environ. Microbiol.52751757Google Scholar
  27. Mackie, RI, White, BA, Bryant, MP 1991Lipid metabolism in anaerobic ecosystemsCrit. Rev. Microbiol.17449479Google Scholar
  28. McInerney, MJ 1988Anaerobic hydrolysis and fermentation of fats and proteinsZehnder, AJB eds. Biology of Anaerobic Microorganisms (ppJohn Wiley and Sons New York, NY373413Google Scholar
  29. McKelvey, RW, Robertson, I, Whitehead, P 1980Effect of non-petroleum oil spills on wintering birds near VancouverMar. Pollut. Bull.11169171Google Scholar
  30. Mudge, SM 1995Deleterious effects from accidental spillages of vegetable oilsSpill Sci. Technol. Bull.2187191Google Scholar
  31. Owen, WF, Stuckey, DC, Healy, JB, Young, LY, McCarty, PL 1979Bioassay for monitoring biochemical methane potential and anaerobic toxicityWater Res.13485492Google Scholar
  32. Patterson, HBW 1989Handling and Storage of OilseedsOils Fats, and Meal. Elsevier Science Publishers, Ltd.New York, NYGoogle Scholar
  33. Pereira, A, Mota, M, Alves, M 2001Degradation of oleic acid in anaerobic filters: the effect of inoculum acclimation and biomass recirculationWater Environ. Res.73612621Google Scholar
  34. Rinzema, A, Boone, M, Knippenberg, K, Lettinga, G 1994Bactericidal effect of long chain fatty acids in anaerobic digestionWater Environ. Res.664049Google Scholar
  35. Rigger, D 1997Edible oils: Are they really that different? In: ProceedingsInternational Oil Spill Conference . American Petroleum InstituteWashington, DC5961Google Scholar
  36. Schauder, R, Schink, B 1989Anaerovibrio glycerini spnov., an anaerobic bacterium fermenting glycerol to propionate, cell matter, and hydrogen. Arch. Microbiol.152473478Google Scholar
  37. Teh, JS 1974Toxicity of short-chain fatty acids and alcohols towards Cladosporium resinae.Appl. Microbiol.28840844Google Scholar
  38. Wincele, DE, Wrenn, BA, Venosa, AD 2004Sedimentation of oil-mineral aggregates for remediation of vegetable oil spillsJ. Environ. Eng.1305058Google Scholar
  39. Zinder, SH, Brock, TD 1978Dimethyl sulphoxide as an electron acceptor for anaerobic growthArch. Microbiol.1163540Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zhengkai Li
    • 1
  • Brian A. Wrenn
    • 1
  • Albert D. Venosa
    • 2
  1. 1.Environmental Engineering Science ProgramWashington UniversitySt. LouisUSA
  2. 2.National Risk Management Research LaboratoryUS Environmental Protection AgencyCincinnatiUSA

Personalised recommendations