The potential for natural attenuation of hydrocarbons in oily drill cuttings from the seabed beneath a North Sea oil platform was investigated. The study focused on the anaerobic degradation of n-hexadecane, n-octacosane and naphthalene using additions of C-14-labelled analogues to drill cuttings samples and was conducted under realistic seabed conditions (except pressure) over an 11-month period. No mineralisation of naphthalene was detected over this time period and mineralisation of octacosane represented only 0.5-1.5% of the added label. In contrast, mineralisation of hexadecane was 10-49% after 11 months of incubation. Selective inhibition of key functional bacterial groups revealed the key role of both sulfate reduction and methanogenesis in the degradation process. This study demonstrates the potential for natural attenuation of at least some hydrocarbon constituents of oily drill cuttings under realistic environmental conditions and highlights the involvement of a wide functional consortium in the natural attenuation process.
- POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC-HYDROCARBONS
- SULFATE-REDUCING CONDITIONS
- MARINE SEDIMENT