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

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



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 


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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

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