Impact of organosulfur content on diesel fuel stability and implications for carbon steel corrosion

Christopher N. Lyles, Deniz F. Aktas, Kathleen E. Duncan, Amy V. Callaghan, Bradley S. Stevenson, Joseph M. Suflita*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Ultralow sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel has been integrated into the worldwide fuel infrastructure to help meet a variety of environmental regulations. However, desulfurization alters the properties of diesel fuel in ways that could potentially impact its biological stability. Fuel desulfurization might predispose ULSD to biodeterioration relative to sulfur-rich fuels and in marine systems accelerate rates of sulfate reduction, sulfide production, and carbon steel biocorrosion. To test such prospects, an inoculum from a seawater-compensated ballast tank was amended with fuel from the same ship or with refinery fractions of ULSD, low- (LSD), and high sulfur diesel (HSD) and monitored for sulfate depletion. The rates of sulfate removal in incubations amended with the refinery fuels were elevated relative to the fuel-unamended controls but statistically indistinguishable (∼50 μM SO4/day), but they were found to be roughly twice as fast (∼100 μM SO 4/day) when the ship's own diesel was used as a source of carbon and energy. Thus, anaerobic hydrocarbon metabolism likely occurred in these incubations regardless of fuel sulfur content. Microbial community structure from each incubation was also largely independent of the fuel amendment type, based on molecular analysis of 16S rRNA sequences. Two other inocula known to catalyze anaerobic hydrocarbon metabolism showed no differences in fuel-associated sulfate reduction or methanogenesis rates between ULSD, LSD, and HSD. These findings suggest that the stability of diesel is independent of the fuel organosulfur compound status and reasons for the accelerated biocorrosion associated with the use of ULSD should be sought elsewhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6052-6062
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 4 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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