In this paper, the high temperature (65-75°C) biodegradation of aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons is investigated and kinetic parameters are derived. The shift of the physico-chemical system properties with rising temperature will be discussed in detail. For example, the solubility of naphthalene is increased by a factor of about ten if the temperature is increased from 20 to 75°C. This effect is essential to increase the bioavailability of sparingly soluble hydrocarbons. It is also demonstrated in experiments that very high oxygen transfer rates can be obtained at high temperatures in the presence of hydrocarbons.

It is shown that efficient phenol biodegradation is essential for high temperature hydrocarbon degradation because some microorganisms tend to transform phenols into polyphenols which are very inhibitory for microbial growth. A defined mixed culture adapted to phenol converted more than 90% of a mixture of phenol, hexadecane and pyrene and a very high maximal growth rate of 0.19 h−1 was determined. A yield coefficient YX/S of about 0.8 g (biomass)/g (hydrocarbons) was calculated in this experiment. In a separate experiment the influence of the hydrocarbon droplet size on the biodegradation is investigated at 70°C using a newly isolated Thermus sp. In this case, the growth on a hexadecane/pyrene mixture was described by a model based on the Monod equation and the corresponding kinetic parameters are derived.

A mixed culture was used for the bioremediation of soil in a slurry reactor. The initial contamination of 11 g/kg was lowered to about 2 g in a reactor inoculated by an immobilized culture of extreme thermophilic microorganisms, while 9 g/kg remained in a sterile control.

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