C. C. Okoro
Biodegradation studies of hydrocarbons in untreated produce water from an oil production facility in Nigeria were undertaken over a period of time using pure fungal cultures (Penicillium sp. and Aspergillus niger). The rate of reduction in some petroleum hydrocarbon fractions, such as n-alkanes, aromatics, nitrogen, sulfur and oxygen (NSO)-containing compounds and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), were monitored by means of gas chromatography and mass spectrometery, using mechanically treated produce water as a reference. Gas chromatographic analysis showed that untreated produce water with an oil and grease content of 1407 mg/l contained various petroleum hydrocarbon fractions, including n- alkanes (608 mg/l), aromatics (13.88 mg/l), NSO compounds (12.68 mg/l) and PAHs (0.833 mg/l). Upon mechanical treatment, the oil and grease content of the produce water was reduced to 44 mg/l, while n-alkanes, aromatics, NSO compounds and PAHs were reduced to 38.4, 2.65, 1.78 and 0.0655 mg/l, respectively.A pure culture of Penicillium sp. reduced the oil and grease content to 72.3 mg/l, comprising of n-alkanes (65.50 mg/l), aromatics (0.98 mg/l), NSO compounds (1.64 mg/l) and PAHs (0.0021 mg/l) after 120 days of exposure. However, A. niger reduced the oil and grease content to 59.1 mg/l, comprising of n-alkanes (56.50 mg/l), aromatics (0.65 mg/l), NSO compounds (0.96 mg/l) and PAHs (0.008 mg/l) after 120 days of exposure. The results indicate that produce water is readily biodegradable and that fungal cultures have the capability to degrade the recalcitrant PAH component of the petroleum hydrocarbon mixture in produce water. Biodegradation rates were, however, slightly more enhanced by using A. niger than Penicillium sp.
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