Categories: News & Events

SiREM and University of Toronto Receive Research Funding for Anaerobic Benzene Culture Research

11 July 2016: Genome Canada announced research funding under the Genomic Applications Partnership Program (GAPP) ( that could revolutionize how benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylene contaminated sites are cleaned up. Benzene will be a project focus given its toxicity, carcinogenicity and prevalence as a groundwater contaminant.

SiREM is partnering with University of Toronto (U of T) Professor Elizabeth Edwards to scale-up, field test and commercialize a unique microbial culture that detoxifies benzene. The culture was enriched from soil samples taken at a contaminated oil refinery and gas station site, and unlike most benzene degraders, the culture works in the absence of oxygen. Oxygen addition to the subsurface (aerobic bioremediation) is expensive; anaerobic benzene degradation would dramatically lower remediation costs and minimize disruptions to the environment during site cleanup. The benzene culture is a promising candidate for a bioaugmentation and could be used to introduce the required microorganisms where they are present at low concentrations or absent from a site.

SiREM will grow hundreds of liters of the novel culture using specialized bioreactors and test the culture at sites owned by a third project partner Federated Co-operatives Limited. Other partners include Mitacs and the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, who will provide matching financial support. In total, the project’s budget is nearly $1 million over three years.

The overall goal of the project is to increase the options available for cost effective and sustainable bioremediation for the large number of BTEX contaminated sites world-wide.

For more information, contact Sandra Dworatzek at

Jamie Raper

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