Sixteen spore forming Gram-positive bacteria were isolated from the rock of an oil reservoir located in a deep-water production basin in Brazil. These strains were identified as belonging to the genus Bacillus using classical biochemical techniques and API 50CH kits, and their identity was confirmed by sequencing of part of the 16S rRNA gene. All strains were tested for oil degradation ability in microplates using Arabian Light and Marlin oils and only seven strains showed positive results in both kinds of oils. They were also able to grow in the presence of carbazole, n-hexadecane and polyalphaolefin (PAO), but not in toluene, as the only carbon sources. The production of key enzymes involved with aromatic hydrocarbons biodegradation process by Bacillus strains (catechol 1,2-dioxygenase and catechol 2,3-dioxygenase) was verified spectrophotometrically by detection of cis,cis-muconic acid and 2-hydroxymuconic semialdehyde, and results indicated that the ortho ring cleavage pathway is preferential. Furthermore, polymerase chain reaction (PCR) products were obtained when the DNA of seven Bacillus strains were screened for the presence of catabolic genes encoding alkane monooxygenase, catechol 1,2-dioxygenase, and/or catechol 2,3-dioxygenase. This is the first study on Bacillus strains isolated from an oil reservoir in Brazil. © 2006 Springer-Verlag.