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Enhancement of anaerobic biodegradation of petroleum hydrocarbons in contaminated groundwater: laboratory mesocosm studies Open Access


Other title
contaminated groundwater
petroleum hydrocarbons
enhanced attenuation
laboratory mesocosm
anaerobic biodegradation
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Fan, Xiaoying
Supervisor and department
Guigard, Selma (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Biggar, Kevin (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Chu, Angus (Civil Engineering, University of Calgary)
Yu, Tong (Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Foght, Julia (Biological Sciences)
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This project was a part of a study to evaluate natural attenuation (NA) as a viable remedial option for petroleum hydrocarbon (PHC) contamination at upstream oil- and gas-contaminated sites in Alberta, Canada. Laboratory mesocosms were set up using groundwater and sediment materials collected from two PHC contaminated sites (Site 1 and Site 3) in Alberta to investigate the enhancement of anaerobic PHC biodegradation by amendment of terminal electraon acceptors (TEAs, nitrate or sulfate) and/or nutrients (ammonium and phosphate). Multiple lines of evidence, including the removal of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes (BTEX) and CCME F1 fraction hydrocarbons (C6 to C10), rapid depletion of TEAs, the production of biogenic gases, and detection of the metabolites verified that anaerobic PHC biodegradation was occurring in both laboratory mesocosm studies. Selective biodegradation of PHCs under different reducing conditions was observed. However, there was no conclusive evidence that one reducing condition will universally favor the biodegradation of specific PHCs. In both studies, nutrient amendment showed no enhancement effects. The calculated first-order biodegradation rates in Site 1 mesocosm study ranged from 0.0032 to 0.033 d-1 for benzene, 0 to 0.028 d-1 for ethylbenzene, 0.0021 to 0.036 d-1 for m-, p-xylenes, and 0.0006 to 0.0045 d-1 for F1-BEX (F1 hydrocarbons exclduding BEX) under the tested conditions. The laboratory first-order biodegradation rates of BEX were higher than the estimated field rates, indicating the potential of enhanced anaerobic biodegradation in situ. However, when comparing the TEA amended mesocosms with the unamended controls (in which iron reduction might be the predominant process), the enhancement effects were less apparent and inconsistent. The calculated first-order biodegradation rates in Site 3 mesocosm study ranged from 0 to 0.0009 d-1 for benzene, 0 to 0.011 d-1 for ethylbenzene, 0 to 0.0016 d-1 for m- and p-xylenes, and 0 to 0.15 d-1 for o-xylene. Sulfate amendment significantly stimulated biodegradation of all xylenes and CCME F1 hydrocarbons. However, there was no definitive evidence that nitrate or sulfate amendment could enhance benzene or ethylbenzene biodegradation.
License granted by Xiaoying Fan ( on 2010-01-28T15:55:37Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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