In situ Linkage of Fungal and Bacterial Proliferation to Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion in B20 Biodiesel Storage Tanks

Blake W. Stamps, Caitlin L. Bojanowski, Carrie A. Drake, Heather S. Nunn, Pamela F. Lloyd, James G. Floyd, Katelyn A. Emmerich, Abby R. Neal, Wendy J. Crookes-Goodson, Bradley S. Stevenson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Renewable fuels hold great promise for the future yet their susceptibility to biodegradation and subsequent corrosion represents a challenge that needs to be directly assessed. Biodiesel is a renewable fuel that is widely used as a substitute or extender for petroleum diesel and is composed of a mixture of fatty acid methyl esters derived from plant or animal fats. Biodiesel can be blended up to 20% v/v with ultra-low sulfur diesel (i.e., B20) and used interchangeably with diesel engines and infrastructure. The addition of biodiesel, however, has been linked to increased susceptibility to biodegradation. Microorganisms proliferating via degradation of biodiesel blends have been linked to microbiologically influenced corrosion in the laboratory, but not measured directly in storage tanks (i.e., in situ). To measure in situ microbial proliferation, fuel degradation and microbially influenced corrosion, we conducted a yearlong study of B20 storage tanks in operation at two locations, identified the microorganisms associated with fuel fouling, and measured in situ corrosion. The bacterial populations were more diverse than the fungal populations, and largely unique to each location. The bacterial populations included members of the Acetobacteraceae, Clostridiaceae, and Proteobacteria. The abundant Eukaryotes at both locations consisted of the same taxa, including a filamentous fungus within the family Trichocomaceae, not yet widely recognized as a contaminant of petroleum fuels, and the Saccharomycetaceae family of yeasts. Increases in the absolute and relative abundances of the Trichocomaceae were correlated with significant, visible fouling and pitting corrosion. This study identified the relationship between fouling of B20 with increased rates of corrosion and the microorganisms responsible, largely at the bottom of the sampled storage tanks. To our knowledge this is the first in situ study of this scale incorporating community and corrosion measurements in an active biodiesel storage environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number167
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
StatePublished - Feb 25 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • B20
  • biocorrosion
  • biodegradation
  • biodiesel
  • biofouling
  • fuel

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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