Emma Mallinson

Predicting the natural attenuation of ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) in groundwater

Research Assistant


Telephone: 25786
Room: G17, Kroto Research Institute

email: emma.mallinson@sheffield.ac.uk

Research interests

Ethyl tert-butyl ether (ETBE) is a fuel oxygenate used as a gasoline additive to improve combustion efficiency and reduce emissions. In Europe, use of ETBE has overtaken use of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE), due to European biofuels legislation. This is because bio-ethanol can be used in the production of ETBE. However, there is a lack of adequate information in the literature on the fate of ETBE in groundwater, as most research has previously focused on MTBE. More information about ETBE in the environment is required for risk management in the case of release of ETBE to the environment.

Previous research about synthetic chemicals released into the environment (such as halogenated compounds and MTBE) suggest that microorganisms are able to develop metabolic pathways for biodegradation. If this is the case for ETBE, then natural attenuation could be a suitable remediation strategy for ETBE contaminated groundwater. This project aims to provide information on the biodegradation potential of ETBE under various environmental conditions (e.g. nutrient status, redox state, co-substrates) in groundwater, and how microorganisms interact in order to transfer the genes responsible for ETBE biodegradation. This data will allow risk-based decisions to be made about remediation of ETBE contaminated groundwater by natural attenuation.