Evaluation of the biodegradation of Alaska North Slope oil in microcosms using the biodegradation model BIOB

Jagadish Torlapati, Michel C. Boufadel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We present the details of a numerical model, BIOB that is capable of simulating the biodegradation of oil entrapped in the sediment. The model uses Monod kinetics to simulate the growth of bacteria in the presence of nutrients and the subsequent consumption of hydrocarbons. The model was used to simulate experimental results of Exxon Valdez oil biodegradation in laboratory columns (Venosa et al., 2010). In that study, samples were collected from three different islands: Eleanor Island (EL107), Knight Island (KN114A), and Smith Island (SM006B), and placed in laboratory microcosms for a duration of 168 days to investigate oil bioremediation through natural attenuation and nutrient amendment. The kinetic parameters of the BIOB model were estimated by fitting to the experimental data using a parameter estimation tool based on Genetic Algorithms (GA). The parameter values of EL107 and KN114A were similar whereas those of SM006B were different from the two other sites; in particular biomass growth at SM006B was four times slower than at the other two islands. Grain size analysis from each site revealed that the specific surface area per unit mass of sediment was considerably lower at SM006B, which suggest that the surface area of sediments is a key control parameter for microbial growth in sediments. Comparison of the BIOB results with exponential decay curves fitted to the data indicated that BIOB provided better fit for KN114A and SM006B in nutrient amended treatments, and for EL107 and KN114A in natural attenuation. In particular, BIOB was able to capture the initial slow biodegradation due to the lag phase in microbial growth. Sensitivity analyses revealed that oil biodegradation at all three locations were sensitive to nutrient concentration whereas SM006B was sensitive to initial biomass concentration due to its slow growth rate. Analyses were also performed to compare the half-lives of individual compounds with that of the overall polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number212
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAY
StatePublished - 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


  • Biodegradation
  • Numerical modeling
  • Oil spill


Dive into the research topics of 'Evaluation of the biodegradation of Alaska North Slope oil in microcosms using the biodegradation model BIOB'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this