Table of Contents
Biotechnology Research International
Volume 2011, Article ID 941810, 13 pages
Review Article

Microbial Degradation of Petroleum Hydrocarbon Contaminants: An Overview

Environmental Biotechnology Division, School of Biosciences and Technology, VIT University, Vellore, Tamil Nadu 632014, India

Received 24 May 2010; Revised 28 June 2010; Accepted 7 July 2010

Academic Editor: Igor Kovalchuk

Copyright © 2011 Nilanjana Das and Preethy Chandran. 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.


One of the major environmental problems today is hydrocarbon contamination resulting from the activities related to the petrochemical industry. Accidental releases of petroleum products are of particular concern in the environment. Hydrocarbon components have been known to belong to the family of carcinogens and neurotoxic organic pollutants. Currently accepted disposal methods of incineration or burial insecure landfills can become prohibitively expensive when amounts of contaminants are large. Mechanical and chemical methods generally used to remove hydrocarbons from contaminated sites have limited effectiveness and can be expensive. Bioremediation is the promising technology for the treatment of these contaminated sites since it is cost-effective and will lead to complete mineralization. Bioremediation functions basically on biodegradation, which may refer to complete mineralization of organic contaminants into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds, and cell protein or transformation of complex organic contaminants to other simpler organic compounds by biological agents like microorganisms. Many indigenous microorganisms in water and soil are capable of degrading hydrocarbon contaminants. This paper presents an updated overview of petroleum hydrocarbon degradation by microorganisms under different ecosystems.