Journal article

Potential for anaerobic biodegradation of linear alkylbenzene cable oils: Literature review and preliminary investigation

Linear alkylbenzene (LAB) cable oils are used for the electrical insulation of high-voltage underground power cables. Due to thermal movement of the cables, leaks can occur at the joints, resulting in cable oil leaking into the surrounding environment. A review of the literature indicates that relatively little is known about the fate of LAB as a bulk pollutant in soil. To investigate this, a physical model of a cable joint bay was constructed and contaminated with cable oil. Fluorometry confirmed that the cable oil became localised to the upper regions of the saturated zone where dissolved oxygen, pH, and oxidation- reduction measurements indicated that conditions were predominately anaerobic, with evidence for sulphate reduction. Mathematical modelling indicates that these conditions were not due solely to the geochemistry of the system. Mesocosm experiments suggest that LAB may be degraded naturally under anaerobic conditions at rates high enough to justify the use of monitored natural attenuation as a remediation strategy. The mechanisms involved in anaerobic degradation are not currently well understood and more research is required to clarify these and identify the microorganisms involved.


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