The use of methyl tert-butyl ether (MTBE) has resulted in serious contamination of many groundwater supplies worldwide. Literature investigations were performed with the aim of improving knowledge on the use of bioreactors for removal of MTBE from contaminated groundwater. Among the important findings were: membrane bioreactors and fluidized bed reactors had the highest volumetric removal rates of all reactors studied, in the order of 1 000 mg/(l d); competition for oxygen, nutrients and occupancy between MTBE degraders and oxidisers of co-contaminants such as, ammonium and the group of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes, may reduce the removal rates of MTBE, or prevent its removal in reactors. With mathematical modelling, the long startup time required for some MTBE degrading reactors could be predicted. Long startup times of up to 200 days were due to the low maximum growth rate of the MTBE degraders, in the order of 0.1 d−1 or less, at 25 °C. However, despite this, high volumetric MTBE removal rates were found to be possible after the startup period when the biomass concentration reached a steady state.
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