Characterization of Hydrocarbon Degrading Bacteria

Petroleum hydrocarbons are major pollutants of marine environments as a result of terrestrial and freshwater runoff, refuse from coastal oil refineries, off shore oil production, shipping activities and accidental spills. The waste oil that accumulates in small quantities inside the lower spaces of the ship known as bilge oil and it causes a serious threat to the ecosystem when discharged illegally into the sea. Bilge oil wastewater generally includes lubricating oil, cleaning diesel oil, oily sludge, spills from engine room, water leaks from internal pipes and sea water filtrations.

Hydrocarbons, the main constituent of bilge oil waters are toxic in nature and they are of concern due to their long persistence in the environment. Biodegradation of these hydrocarbons by indigenous microbial populations represents one of the alternative mechanisms that for eliminating such pollutants from the environment. Studies have shown that most potential bacteria for petroleum hydrocarbon degradation have been isolated from areas contaminated with oil.Hydrocarbon degrading microorganisms usually exists in very low abundance in marine environments. Identification of the key organisms that play roles in pollutant biodegradation is important for understanding, evaluating and developing in situ bioremediation strategies. Thus it is highly essential to characterize bacterial communities, to identify responsible degraders and to elucidate the catalytic potential of these degraders.

The aim of this work is to isolates hydrocarbonoclastic bacterial strains indigenous to marine habitats located on the coastal area of the United Arab Emirates, to investigate the biodegradation potential of the recovered isolates, and to describe the physiological and molecular characteristics of the most potent hydrocarbon degraders.