Simulation of aerobic and anaerobic biodegradation processes at a crude oil spill site


  • Hedeff I. Essaid,

  • Barbara A. Bekins,

  • E. Michael Godsy,

  • Ean Warren,

  • Mary Jo Baedecker,

  • Isabelle M. Cozzarelli


A two-dimensional, multispecies reactive solute transport model with sequential aerobic and anaerobic degradation processes was developed and tested. The model was used to study the field-scale solute transport and degradation processes at the Bemidji, Minnesota, crude oil spill site. The simulations included the biodegradation of volatile and nonvolatile fractions of dissolved organic carbon by aerobic processes, manganese and iron reduction, and methanogenesis. Model parameter estimates were constrained by published Monod kinetic parameters, theoretical yield estimates, and field biomass measurements. Despite the considerable uncertainty in the model parameter estimates, results of simulations reproduced the general features of the observed groundwater plume and the measured bacterial concentrations. In the simulation, 46% of the total dissolved organic carbon (TDOC) introduced into the aquifer was degraded. Aerobic degradation accounted for 40% of the TDOC degraded. Anaerobic processes accounted for the remaining 60% of degradation of TDOC: 5% by Mn reduction, 19% by Fe reduction, and 36% by methanogenesis. Thus anaerobic processes account for more than half of the removal of DOC at this site.