Limitation of microbial degradation of fuel distillates

Project duration:

01.11.2019 - 30.04.2022

Project management:

Dr. Felix Stibany

M. Sc. Katharina Mayer

Prof. Dr. Andreas Schäffer

Description of the Project:

The storage of fuel distillates such as oils bears the risk of microbial degradation, leading to fuel filter clogs and storage tank damages. The purpose of the project is to tackle this issue by limiting microbial growth. With regard to regulatory conformity (e.g. REACH), the focus lies on limitation through absence of degradable compounds, rather than the addition of biocides. Desired outcomes are a list of identified components that pose a risk of microbial activity in fuel distillates as well as a quick test for potential microbial degradation of middle distillates. The three partners involved in this project focus on:

1: The acquisition and characterization of investigated fuel oils and storage tank optimization (OWI Science for Fuels GmbH)

2: Microbial activity in different fuel oils under storage tank conditions (Institute of Applied Microbiology)

3: Identification of microbial activity promoting compounds using chemical analytical methods and development of a quick test for microbial activity in fuel oils under optimized growth condition by applying passive dosing (Institute for Environmental Research)

Activities in 2019/2020:

The project started in 11/2019 and experimental work will begin soon. Fuels will be tested for microbial activity by the iAMB and selected for either high or low activity. Selected fuels will then be further investigated by the Institute for Environmental Research by analytical methods and the development of a passive dosing based test system for microbial degradation. Fuel loaded polymers will be used to dose the fuel to the water phase and to measure the microbial activity. Samples from the storage tank conditions as well as the passive dosing experiments will be investigated via GCxGC-MS analysis. Optionally, passive sampling methods will be applied to accelerate analytical procedures. The analytical data will help to identify specific activity promoters and to characterize activity promoting substance classes.

Optimization strategies for microbial growth limitation will be developed hand in hand with the OWI and the iAMB to aid small and medium-sized enterprises.


In case of successful identification of microbial growth promoting compounds, fuels can subsequently be optimized towards a better storability. Also a successfully developed quick test will help to promote accelerated fuel optimization and can be further developed towards a higher technology readiness level (TRL) from TRL 4 to 6 or 7.


Cooperation Partners

- OWI Science for Fuels GmbH

- Institute of Applied Microbiology (iAMB), RWTH Aachen University


The project is part of the German Joint Industrial Research program (Industrielle Gemeinschaftsforschung, IGF) within the German Federation of Industrial Research Associations (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Industrieller Forschungsvereinigungen, AiF), supported by the German Scientific Society for Oil, Gas and Coal (Deutsche Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft für Erdöl, Erdgas und Kohle e.V., DGMK). The program is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy.