Journal article

Biodegradation and environmental behavior of biodiesel mixtures in the sea: An initial study

Biodiesel, a mixture of fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) derived from animal fats or vegetable oils, is rapidly moving towards the mainstream as an alternative source of energy. However, the behavior of biodiesel, or blends of biodiesel with fossil diesel, in the marine environment have yet to be fully understood. Hence, we performed a series of initial laboratory experiments and simple calculations to evaluate the microbial and environmental fate of FAMEs. Aerobic seawater microcosms spiked with biodiesel or mixtures of biodiesel and fossil diesel revealed that the FAMEs were degraded at roughly the same rate as n-alkanes, and more rapidly than other hydrocarbon components. The residues extracted from these different microcosms became indistinguishable within weeks. Preliminary results from physical–chemical calculations suggest that FAMEs in biodiesel mixtures will not affect the evaporation rates of spilled petroleum hydrocarbons but may stabilize oil droplets in the water column and thereby facilitate transport.


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