Microbial metabolism and community structure in response to bioelectrochemically enhanced remediation of petroleum hydrocarbon-contaminated soil

Lu Lu, Tyler Huggins, Song Jin, Yi Zuo, Zhiyong Ren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

256 Scopus citations


This study demonstrates that electrodes in a bioelectrochemical system (BES) can potentially serve as a nonexhaustible electron acceptor for in situ bioremediation of hydrocarbon contaminated soil the deployment of BES not only eliminates aeration or supplement of electron acceptors as in contemporary bioremediation but also significantly shortens the remediation period and produces sustainable electricity. More interestingly, the study reveals that microbial metabolism and community structure distinctively respond to the bioelectrochemically enhanced remediation. Tubular BESs with carbon cloth anode (CCA) or biochar anode (BCA) were inserted into raw water saturated soils containing petroleum hydrocarbons for enhancing in situ remediation. Results show that total petroleum hydrocarbon (TPH) removal rate almost doubled in soils close to the anode (63.5-78.7%) than that in the open circuit positive controls (37.6-43.4%) during a period of 64 days the maximum current density from the BESs ranged from 73 to 86 mA/m2. Comprehensive microbial and chemical characterizations and statistical analyses show that the residual TPH has a strongly positive correlation with hydrocarbon-degrading microorganisms (HDM) numbers, dehydrogenase activity, and lipase activity and a negative correlation with soil pH, conductivity, and catalase activity. Distinctive microbial communities were identified at the anode, in soil with electrodes, and soil without electrodes. Uncommon electrochemically active bacteria capable of hydrocarbon degradation such as Comamonas testosteroni, Pseudomonas putida, and Ochrobactrum anthropi were selectively enriched on the anode, while hydrocarbon oxidizing bacteria were dominant in soil samples. Results from genus or phylum level characterizations well agree with the data from cluster analysis. Data from this study suggests that a unique constitution of microbial communities may play a key role in BES enhancement of petroleum hydrocarbons biodegradation in soils.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4021-4029
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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