Table of Contents Author Guidelines Submit a Manuscript
BioMed Research International
Volume 2013 (2013), Article ID 328608, 16 pages
Review Article

Practical Considerations and Challenges Involved in Surfactant Enhanced Bioremediation of Oil

Centre for Environmental Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Powai, Mumbai 400 076, India

Received 29 April 2013; Revised 3 September 2013; Accepted 19 September 2013

Academic Editor: Ramkrishna Sen

Copyright © 2013 Sagarika Mohanty et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Surfactant enhanced bioremediation (SEB) of oil is an approach adopted to overcome the bioavailability constraints encountered in biotransformation of nonaqueous phase liquid (NAPL) pollutants. Fuel oils contain n-alkanes and other aliphatic hydrocarbons, monoaromatics, and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Although hydrocarbon degrading cultures are abundant in nature, complete biodegradation of oil is rarely achieved even under favorable environmental conditions due to the structural complexity of oil and culture specificities. Moreover, the interaction among cultures in a consortium, substrate interaction effects during the degradation and ability of specific cultures to alter the bioavailability of oil invariably affect the process. Although SEB has the potential to increase the degradation rate of oil and its constituents, there are numerous challenges in the successful application of this technology. Success is dependent on the choice of appropriate surfactant type and dose since the surfactant-hydrocarbon-microorganism interaction may be unique to each scenario. Surfactants not only enhance the uptake of constituents through micellar solubilization and emulsification but can also alter microbial cell surface characteristics. Moreover, hydrocarbons partitioned in micelles may not be readily bioavailable depending on the microorganism-surfactant interactions. Surfactant toxicity and inherent biodegradability of surfactants may pose additional challenges as discussed in this review.