Biodegradability of 2-ethylhexyl nitrate (2-EHN), a cetane improver of diesel oil
The 2-ethyhexyl nitrate (2-EHN) is currently added to diesel oil to improve ignition and boost cetane number. The biodegradability of this widely used chemical needed to be assessed in order to evaluate the environmental impact in case of accidental release. In aerobic liquid cultures, biodegradation of 2-EHN was assessed in biphasic liquid cultures using an inert non-aqueous phase liquid such as 2,2,4,4,6,8,8-heptamethylnonane (HMN) as solvent for the hydrophobic substrate. 2-EHN was found to be biodegradable by microbial communities from refinery wastewater treatment plants, but was recalcitrant to those of urban wastewater treatment facilities. Out of eighteen hydrocarbon-polluted or non-polluted soil samples, six microbial populations were also able to degrade 2-EHN. However, strain isolation from these microbial populations was rather difficult suggesting close cooperation between members of the microbial communities. Specific axenic bacterial strains selected for their ability to catabolize recalcitrant-hydrocarbons were also tested for their capacity to degrade 2-EHN. In liquid cultures with HMN phase as non-aqueous phase liquid, some Mycobacterium austroafricanum strains were found to degrade and mineralize 2–EHN significantly.