The recent advancements made in petroleum microbiology - Term Paper Example

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Petroleum, in the twenty – first century, remains to be one of the most significant sources of fuel and energy. It is a complex blend or mixture of different types of hydrocarbons and organic compounds. …
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Download file to see previous pages Petroleum, in the twenty – first century, remains to be one of the most significant sources of fuel and energy. It is a complex blend or mixture of different types of hydrocarbons and organic compounds. It may sometimes also contain traces of transition metal complexes (called organometallo) like nickel and vanadium (Lerner, 2011). The compositions of petroleum, and thus its physical and chemical properties, vary from place to place, and from area to area. In the current scenario, the demand for petroleum and its by – products continues to rise. In an answer to them, science has come up with the use of microbiology during the extraction and purification of petroleum. The study of this use and application of microorganisms in the fuel industry is called petroleum microbiology (Encyclopedia, 2005). The most important experimental works in the field of petroleum microbiology have been done by Claude ZoBell (Lerner, 2011). His research, which extended for over 40 years (1930 – 1970), has proved that microorganisms, especially bacteria, play an important role in most of the vital processes related to petroleum, which include its formation, extraction and refining. The hydrocarbons and petroleum products have been termed as ‘substrates’ or ‘nutrients’ for microbes, which they need in order to carry out efficient metabolism. This feeding of bacteria and fungi is aided by the action of certain enzymes and is called, biodegradation (Hamme, 2003). Most of the hydrocarbons are broken down to release carbon dioxide, water, proteins and nucleic acids. The carbon dioxide escapes to the atmosphere while the rest of the products are used for cellular growth. Bacteria and fungi involved in biodegradation are highly specific in function, that is, not all bacteria can break down a specific hydrocarbon or organic compound. Pseudomonas and mycobacterium are examples of some degrading bacteria while examples of fungi include Candida (Van Hamme, 2003). With the advancement of biotechnology and microbiology, scientists have widened their understanding and developed better concepts of the metabolic processes related to microbial actions on petroleum (Van Hamme, 2003). The effects of the use of the hydrocarbons as substrates by the microorganisms involve alteration of cell surface membranes and mechanisms of both uptake and discharge. Similarly, the ability to study the behaviour of microbial organisms, in a petroleum rich environment at a molecular level has also been enhanced. Under the optimum conditions for the growth of these organisms, they have been treated with hydrocarbons, and transformed to take part in highly accelerated and bioreactor-based petroleum waste degradation processes, that are now being implemented (Atlas, 1995) (Van Hamme, 2003). In the modern world, petroleum microbiology is an important part of bioremediation which involves controlling oil pollution (Bronson, 1993). Bioremediation is the use of microorganisms to get rid of pollutants and harmful substances from the environment. Oil pollution is the result of seeping and spillage of oil from tankers into the sea, as well as intentional or deliberate discharge of oil products into the water sources. The huge spill of crude oil from a tanker near Alaska’s coast back in the 1980s practically showed the scientific world of the usefulness of biodegradation (Bronson, 1993). Scientists observed the actions of the microorganisms present in breaking down the oil and thus, getting rid of it, both on and offshore. Experimental evidences also showed that the microbial actions are affected by factors like temperature and pH. This led to the establishment of a rapidly growing industry which makes uses of microbial remedies to counter water pollution. Modern researches have also proved that waste products produced by one microorganism during biodegradation can be used as a source of food by the others ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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