Biodesulfurization of Petroleum and Petroleum Distillates
This research is being conducted under the direction of Dr. Charles
Kulpa, Director, Center for Environmental Science & Technology
and is funded by Energy Biosystems, Inc., The Woodlands, TX.
The use of bacteria to remove sulfur from crude oil or petroleum distillates
is a novel concept that presents an alternative biotechnology to the
current technology of hydrodesulfurization (HDS). HDS employs high
catalysis and hydrogen to remove the organically bound sulfur and
leave the carbon skeleton. Bacteria such as Rhodococcus have been
found to carry
out a similar reaction with dibenzothiophene (DBT) as a model compound.
Dibenzothiophene is metabolized with the resultant release of sulfur
as sulfate and the production of hydroxybiphenyl by Rhodococcus.
at Notre Dame has focused on (1) isolating and identifying other bacteria
that can catalyze similar reactions with benzothiophene and other
organosulfur compounds. (2) Determining the ability of sulfate reducing
metabolize DBT and related compounds as sulfur sources. (3) Evaluate
the immobilization of Rhodococcus as a mechanism
for exposing biocatalyst to petroleum distillates instead of suspended
biocatalyst. (4) Utilizing
electron microscopy to determine the surface properties and ultrastructural
features of Rhodococcus during biodesulfurization.