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Study says crude oil-degrading bacteria found in Niger Delta community can save the polluted environment

Sunday Omeike PhD FASLN

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Researchers from the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Rivers State, have reported that there are indeed bacterial species that could be potential candidates for cleanup of crude oil-degraded environments in the Niger-Delta region.

The Niger-Delta, located in the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria, is home to oil exploration and the resultant contamination that comes with its spillage, process and transportation errors. This has exposed the soil, water to contamination and damaged the biological systems residing in the soil, including microorganisms and plants.

While huge sums of money have been budgeted and already expended to cleanup these contaminated communities that have had their sources of livelihood, farming and fishing, destroyed, little has been achieved. This is because conventional chemical methods of oil pollution cleanup have so far proved ineffective in removal, especially of the highly toxic hexadecane. Also known as octane, it is an important crude oil constituent that prevent availability of free water and is difficult to degrade, but microbial bioremediation is a promising and environmentally safe technology that can effectively remove this constituent- and in effect, crude oil- from contaminated environment.

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Amara Okoye, a doctoral candidate in UNIPORT’s Africa Centre of Excellence in Oilfield Chemicals Research (ACE-CEFOR), and her team of experts from the Department of Microbiology of the same institution, reported the presence of bacteria strains that can actively detoxify this harmful chemical in crude oil, thereby making the environment oil-free.

Published in Scientific African, they reported that species of Pseudomonas, Acinetobacter, Micrococcus, Bacillus, Pseudomonas, Micrococcus, Streptococcus, Staphylococcus and Rhodococcus isolated from Gio community in Tai Local Government Area, River State.

In a community where crude oil pollution levels greatly exceeded Department of Petroleum Resources’ intervention limits and requires urgent cleanup, they found that these nine isolates are indigenous to the location and highly degrade hexadecane in crude oil.

Therefore, they advised that these ‘good bacteria’ could be good candidates for bioremediation of the polluted site, if authorities would explore of using this inexpensive oil cleanup technology.


Okoye, A. U., Chikere, C. B., and Okpokwasili, G. C., 2020. Isolation and Characterization of Hexadecane Degrading Bacteria from Oil- polluted soil in Gio Community, Niger Delta, Nigeria. Scientific African, 8: e00340

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