Five hydrocarbon-oxidizing strains were isolated from formation waters of oilfields in Russia, Kazakhstan and China. These strains were moderately thermophilic, neutrophilic, motile, spore-forming rods, aerobic or facultatively anaerobic. The G+C content of their DNA ranged from 49.7 to 52.3 mol%. The major isoprenoid quinone was menaquinone-7; cellular fatty acid profiles consisted of significant amounts of iso-15:0, iso-16:0 and iso-17:0 fatty acids (61.7-86.8% of the total). Based on data from 16S rDNA analysis and DNA-DNA hybridization, the subsurface isolates could be divided into two groups, one of which consisted of strains UT and X and the other of which consisted of strains K, Sam and 34T. The new strains exhibited a close phylogenetic relationship to thermophilic bacilli of 'Group 5' of Ash et al. [Ash, C., Farrow, J. A. E., Wallbanks, S. & Collins, M. D. (1991). Lett Appl Microbiol 13, 202-206] and a set of corresponding signature positions of 16S rRNA. Comparative analysis of the 16S rDNA sequences and fatty acid compositions of the novel isolates and established species of thermophilic bacilli indicated that the subsurface strains represent two new species within a new genus, for which the names Geobacillus subterraneus gen. nov., sp. nov., and Geobacillus uzenensis sp. nov. are proposed. It is also proposed that Bacillus stearothermophilus, Bacillus thermoleovorans, Bacillus thermocatenulatus, Bacillus kaustophilus, Bacillus thermoglucosidasius and Bacillus thermodenitrificans be transferred to this new genus, with Geobacillus stearothermophilus (formerly Bacillus stearothermophilus) as the type species.