Accumulation of (R)-2-hydroxyglutarate in cells results from mutations to isocitrate dehydrogenase that correlate with cancer. A recent study reports that (R)-, but not (S)-2-hydroxyglutarate, acts as a co-substrate for the hypoxia-inducible factor prolyl hydroxylases via enzyme-catalysed oxidation to 2-oxoglutarate. Here we investigate the mechanism of 2-hydroxyglutarate-enabled activation of 2-oxoglutarate oxygenases, including prolyl hydroxylase domain 2, the most important human prolyl hydroxylase isoform. We observe that 2-hydroxyglutarate-enabled catalysis by prolyl hydroxylase domain 2 is not enantiomer-specific and is stimulated by ferrous/ferric ion and reducing agents including L-ascorbate. The results reveal that 2-hydroxyglutarate is oxidized to 2-oxoglutarate non-enzymatically, likely via iron-mediated Fenton-chemistry, at levels supporting in vitro catalysis by 2-oxoglutarate oxygenases. Succinic semialdehyde and succinate are also identified as products of 2-hydroxyglutarate oxidation. Overall, the results rationalize the reported effects of 2-hydroxyglutarate on catalysis by prolyl hydroxylases in vitro and suggest that non-enzymatic 2-hydroxyglutarate oxidation may be of biological interest.