Determining the extent of biodegradation of fuels using the diastereomers of acyclic isoprenoids

Cameron P. McIntyre, Paul Mc A Harvey, Susan Ferguson, Anna M. Wressnig, Herbert Volk, Simon C. George, Ian Snape

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    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Improved testing and remediation procedures for sites contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons are a priority in remote cold regions such as Antarctica, where costs are higher and remediation times are longer. Isoprenoid/n-alkane ratios are commonly used to determine the extent of biodegradation at low levels but are not useful once the n-alkanes have been removed. This study demonstrates how the diastereomers of the acyclic isoprenoids can be used to determine the extent of biodegradation in moderately biodegraded fuel in soils from a bioremediation trial at Casey Station, Antarctica. The biological diastereomers of pristane (meso; RS = SR) are depleted more rapidly during moderate biodegradation than the geological or mature diastereomers (RR and SS), and thus, the ratio of pristane diastereomers can determine the level of biodegradation. The statistical difference among mean diastereomer ratios for samples grouped according to the biodegradation scale and pristane/phytane ratios was highly significant. The ratios of norpristane and phytane diastereomers also change with biodegradation in a similar fashion, and different levels of sensitivity exist for each. Additional benefits are that the method can be performed on conventional gas chromatographs by non-specialist chemists and that the ratios are independent of evaporation and do not necessarily require a non-biodegraded reference (T0) sample. This study details a simple alternative method for determining the extent of biodegradation of fuels at moderate levels that can be applied to a wide range of petroleum products.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2452-2458
    Number of pages7
    JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2007

    Bibliographical note

    A correction to this paper was published in Environ. Sci. Technol. 2017, 51, 2495−2495; DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b00172


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