Production of High Purity Biosurfactants Using Heavy Oil Residues as Carbon Source
Typically, oil pollution cleanup procedures following first response actions include dispersion. Crude oil is biodegradable, and its bioavailability can be increased when dispersed into very fine droplets by means of chemical surfactants. Although their use is widely spread in many applications, the latter may prove toxic, depending on the extent of use. The use of biological means, such as bioremediation and biosurfactants, has emerged over the past years as a very promising ‘green’ alternative technology. Biosurfactants (BSs) are amphiphilic molecules produced by microorganisms during biodegradation, thus increasing the bioavailability of the organic pollutants. It is their biodegradability and low toxicity that render BSs as a very promising alternative to the synthetic ones. Alcanivorax borkumensis SK2 strain ability to produce BSs, without any impurities from the substrate, was investigated. The biosurfactant production was scaled up by means of a sequencing batch reactor (SBR) and a heavy oil residue substrate as the carbon source. The product is free from substrate impurities, and its efficiency is tested on oil bioremediation in the marine environment. The product’s dispersion efficiency was determined by the baffled flask test. The production method proposed can have a significant impact to the market, given the ever-increasing demand for ecologically friendly, reliable, commercially viable and economically competitive environmental cleanup techniques.