Biosurfactant‐facilitated leaching of metals from spent hydrodesulphurization catalyst

S Alsaqer, M Marafi, Ibrahim Banat, W Ismail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


Aims: To investigate the capabilities of different types of biosurfactants (rhamnolipids, lipopeptides, sophorolipids) to remove metals and carbon from the hazardous spent hydrodesulfurization (HDS) catalyst generated by petroleum refineries.
Methods and Results: Biosurfactants were prepared and used to treat spent HDS catalyst. Metal and carbon contents were analyzed and compared with those from no-biosurfactant control treatments. All biosurfactant treatments increased carbon loss percentage from the spent HDS catalyst. The lipopeptide treatment LI, containing 17.34 mg/mL of crude biosurfactants, caused the highest carbon loss percentage (44.5%). Rhamnolipids were, in general, better than sophorolipids and lipopeptides as metal-removing agents. The metal content decreased as the concentration of rhamnolipids decreased. The R5 treatment, which contained 0.4 mg/L of crude rhamnolipids, caused the highest reduction in metal content. Molybdenum, Nickle and Vanadium contents were reduced by 90%, 30%, and 70%, respectively.
Conclusions: Biosurfactants might have potential application for metals and coke removal from spent HDS catalysts. The bioleaching capability depends on the type and concentration of the biosurfactant.
Significance and Impact of the Study: This study, after further in-depth investigations, might lead to the development of an eco-friendly and economic technology to treat or even regenerate the environmentally hazardous spent HDS catalysts, which are generated in huge amounts by the petroleum refineries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2 Jul 2018


  • bioleaching, biosurfactants, coke deposition, molybdenum, rhamnolipids, sophorolipids, spent HDS catalyst.


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