Two-phase partitioning bioreactors offer many advantages for the removal of toxic pollutants. In particular, such systems can be loaded with very large quantities of pollutants without risks of microbial inhibition, they are self-regulated and they prevent the risks of hazardous pollutant volatilisation during aerobic treatment. However, their potential has never been tested at low temperatures. Phenol biodegradation by a cold adapted Pseudomonas strain was therefore tested at 14 or 4°C using 2-undecanone, diethyl sebacate or 2-decanone as organic phases in a two-phase partitioning bioreactor. The three solvents were biocompatible at 14°C but evidence was found that diethyl sebacate was biodegraded by the bacteria and this solvent was not tested further. Although only 2-decanone was suitable at 4°C, phenol biodegradation was more efficient in 2-undecanone at 14°C, reaching a maximum volumetric rate (based on the volume of aqueous phase) of approximately 1.94g/L·day after 47h of cultivation. In 2-decanone at 14°C, evidence was found that phenol degradation was limited by the release of biosurfactants, which increased the solubility and toxicity of the solvent in the aqueous phase inhibiting microbial activity. This study therefore shows that pollutant removal at low temperature is feasible but that the production of biosurfactants can have a negative impact on the process and must be taken into consideration when selecting the organic solvent. Future work should therefore focus on the selection of solvents suitable for use at temperatures below 14°C.

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