Interaction between clay minerals and hydrocarbon-utilizing indigenous microorganisms in high concentrations of heavy oil: implications for bioremediation

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This study focused on whether the presence of clay minerals (montmorillonite and kaolinite) in marine or coastal environments contaminated with high concentrations of heavy-oil spills were able to support the growth of hydrocarbon degraders to enable bioremediation. The bacterial growth experiment utilizing ∼150 g/l of heavy oil (from the Nakhodka oil spill) was conducted with 1500 mg/l of montmorillonite or kaolinite. Bacterial strain Pseudomonas aeruginosa (isolated from Atake seashore, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan), capable of degrading heavy oil, was employed in combination with other hydrocarbon degraders inhabiting the heavy oil and seawater (collected from the Sea of Japan). The interactions among microbial cells, clay minerals and heavy oil were studied. Both clays were capable of promoting microbial growth and allowed microorganisms to proliferate (to a greater degree than in a control sample which contained no clay) in an extremely high concentration of heavy oil. Observation by transmission electron microscopy of the clay-oil-cell complexes showed that microbial cells tended to be bound primarily on the edges of the clays. X-ray diffraction analysis showed that the clay-oil and clay-oil-cell complexes involved the adsorption of microbial cells and/or heavy oil on the external surfaces of the clays. How do the interactions among clay minerals, microbial cells and heavy oil contribute to environmental factors influencing the bioremediation process? To our knowledge, there are no previous reports on the use of clay minerals in the bioremediation of the Nakhodka oil spill in combination with biofilm formation.
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