The Environmental Fate of Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE)

EPA Grant Number: U915204
Title: The Environmental Fate of Methyl Tert-Butyl Ether (MTBE)
Investigators: Church, Clinton D.
Institution: Oregon Graduate Institute of Science & Technology
EPA Project Officer: Lee, Sonja
Project Period: September 1, 1997 through September 1, 2000
Project Amount: $102,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Engineering and Environmental Chemistry , Fellowship - Civil/Environmental Engineering


The objective of this research project is to characterize the kinetics and mechanisms of in situ MTBE degradation to provide a better basis for assessment of its impact and potential for remediation.


Ethers, in general, are a class of compounds that are characteristically unreactive over a wide range of industrial and laboratory conditions. It is unlikely then, that MTBE will be rapidly transformed under environmentally relevant conditions, and this is consistent with the few data that currently are available. There are, however, a number of pathways by which degradation of MTBE may occur under atmospheric, in situ, or remediation conditions. The major possibilities include hydrolysis, enzymatic oxidation, and reaction with hydroxyl radical. To assess these possibilities, I have focused on the following: (1) identify possible degradation pathways and develop analytical methods capable of monitoring the resulting products; (2) assess the kinetics and mechanisms of degradation pathways that lead to rapid removal of MTBE and its degradation products from the environment; (3) assess the occurrence and kinetics of MTBE degradation under a variety of groundwater conditions; (4) conduct the first detailed assessment of the pathways and kinetics of MTBE degradation under controlled laboratory conditions simulating those of groundwater; and (5) evaluate the potential for in situ MTBE degradation by biotic or abiotic means under both natural and enhanced environmental conditions.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, methyl tert-butyl ether, MTBE, remediation, MTBE degradation, groundwater., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Waste, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Remediation, Fate & Transport, Environmental Microbiology, Biochemistry, Ecology and Ecosystems, fate and transport, MTBE, hydrologic processes, in situ degradation, geochemistry, aquatic ecosystems, contaminated groundwater, groundwater, contaminant transport models, aquifer fate and treatment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999
  • Final