Petroleum hydrocarbons pollution is commonplace in the environment owing to accidental spillages, leakages and indiscriminate disposal. Globally, it is estimated that between 1.7-8.8 million tonnes of oil is released into the aquatic environment annually; and from 1970-2018, 5.8 million tonnes of oil were spilled as a result of tanker incidences. Remediating these spills is a great priority due to their negative impacts on the environment e.g.
irreversible habitat loss and threat to the survival of living organisms and public health e.g. genotoxic, mutagenic and/or carcinogenic effects.
Work is currently underway to enrich and select electrochemically active hydrocarbon degraders for
use in bioelectrochemical remediation of target petroleum hydrocarbons–benzene and phenantherene. Inocula from contaminated matrices (soil, sediment and groundwater)
was taken from the Niger Delta region, Nigeria, which was highlighted by a 2011 UNEP report as being highly contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons. Selected isolates will be identified and inoculated into microbial fuel cell as pure cultures and as microcosms to determine their hydrocarbon removal efficiencies and rates.
Bioelectrochemical remediation has promise in speeding up the degradation process while reducing the amount of energy and chemicals used both of which are current impediments to conventional bioremediation processes applied to petroleum hydrocarbons.