• Biodegradability;
  • Mineralogical effects;
  • n-Alkanes;
  • Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons


Experiments were carried out to determine the effects of mineralogy on the biodegradability of components of a whole fuel by a soil microbial consortium. Samples of quartz sand (Fischer Sea Sand) and illite clay (API 35) were spiked with marine diesel fuel, aged, slurried, and inoculated, and concentrations of fuel components were monitored over time. To help distinguish biotic from abiotic processes, identical samples were poisoned with mercuric chloride and were run in parallel. While there was chromatographic and biomarker evidence of n-alkane biodegradation in the sand samples, illite samples showed no evidence of biogenic loss of aliphatic components. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, on the other hand, were lost equivalently on both minerals and in both cases were lost to a much greater extent than were total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPHs). These results suggest that under our experimental conditions, illite inhibited the bioavailability of some TPH components to the soil microbial consortium.