1999 Volume 63 Issue 1 Pages 1-9
Sulfur removal from petroleum is important from the standpoint of the global environment because the combustion of sulfur compounds leads to the production of sulfur oxides, which are the source of acid rain. As the regulations for sulfur in fuels become more stringent, the existing chemical desulfurizations are coming inadequate for the “deeper desulfurization” to produce lower-sulfur fuels without new and innovative processes. Biodesulfurization is rising as one of the candidates. Several microorganisms were found to desulfurize dibenzothiophene (DBT), a representative of the organic sulfur compounds in petroleum, forming a sulfur-free compound, 2-hydroxybiphenyl. They are promising as biocatalysts in the microbial desulfurization of petroleum because without assimilation of the carbon content, they remove only sulfur from the heterocyclic compounds which is refractory to conventional chemical desulfurization. Both enzymological and molecular genetic studies are now in progress for the purpose of obtaining improved desulfurization activity of organisms. The genes involved in the sulfur-specific DBT desulfurization were identified and the corresponding enzymes have been investigated. From the practical point of view, it has been proved that the microbial desulfurization proceeds in the presence of high concentrations of hydrocarbons, and more complicated DBT analogs are also desulfurized by the microorganisms. This review outlines the progress in the studies of the microbial desulfurization from the basic and practical point of view.
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