Long term studies on the anaerobic biodegradability of MTBE and other gasoline ethers

Christopher Kevin Waul, Erik Arvin, Jens Ejbye Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Anaerobic biodegradation of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) using electron acceptors such as nitrate, Fe(III), sulfate and bicarbonate, may be more cost effective and feasible compared to aerobic treatment methods, for dealing with the MTBE problem. Currently. there are a few reports in the literature which have documented anaerobic biodegradation of MTBE in batch studies. However, some of the reports have been controversial, additionally many other studies have failed to document anaerobic biodegradation. Experiments were conducted over a long term period in both batch and continuous reactors to investigate the anaerobic biodegradability of MTBE and other gasoline ethers. Inoculums collected from various environments were used, along with different electron acceptors. Only one set of the batch experiments showed a 30-60% conversion of MTBE to tert-butyl alcohol under Fe(III)-reducing conditions, using complexed Fe(III). The use of complexed Fe(III) created an initial low pH of 1-2 in these batches due to its acidic nature, therefore, the removal may be due to acid hydrolysis rather than biological processes. Based on the findings obtained, caution should be applied in the interpretation of experimental data in which complexed Fe(III) is used for bioremediation of MTBE.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Hazardous Materials
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)427-432
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • Bio energy
  • Batch studies
  • MTBE
  • Bioenergy and biomass
  • Ethers
  • Fe(III)-reducing
  • Anaerobic degradation


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