Marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria: their role and application in oil-spill response and enhanced oil recovery

Christina Nikolova, Tony Gutierrez

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

8 Citations (Scopus)


Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria in the oceans and seas occur in relatively low abundances, but they become enriched in the presence of hydrocarbons, such as during oil spills. Though some species, mainly those found in anoxic sediments, are capable of anaerobic degradation of hydrocarbons, most marine hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria are strictly aerobic. Those with an almost exclusive preference for hydrocarbons as a sole source of carbon and energy are the obligate hydrocarbon degraders—organisms that are fundamentally important in the natural purging of oil-polluted marine environments. One mechanism through which these bacteria degrade hydrocarbons is via their production of biosurfactants that reduce the interfacial tension between water and oil, and break up oil into small droplets, in turn making the oil more accessible to these bacteria for degradation. Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria, and the biosurfactants they produce, have found enormous use in bioremediation and in enhanced oil recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMicrobial Biodegradation and Bioremediation
Subtitle of host publicationTechniques and Case Studies for Environmental Pollution
EditorsSurajit Das, Hirak Ranjan Dash
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780323900133
ISBN (Print)9780323854559
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • bioremediation
  • biosurfactants
  • hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria
  • marine environment
  • marine oil spills
  • microbial enhanced oil recovery
  • oil pollution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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