Several media designed for use in a most probable number (MPN) determination of petroleum-degrading microorganisms were compared. The best results, i.e., largest numbers, were obtained using a buffered (32 mM PO4=) liquid medium containing 1% hydrocarbon substrate. Of 104 presumptive oil degraders tested, 20 grew on oil agar medium but did not utilize oil or a mixture of pure paraffinic hydrocarbons (C10 to C16 n-alkanes) in liquid (MPN) medium. Visible turbidity in the liquid medium was correlated with hydrocarbon utilization. Counts of petroleum degraders obtained using liquid medium (MPN) were in most cases higher than those obtained on an oil-amended silica gel medium. Both procedures yield an estimation of oil degraders, and the oil-amended agar permits growth of organisms which do not degrade crude oil. All strains of oil-degrading microorganisms examined in this study were lipolytic, but the converse was not always true.