In this paper, we provide background to the genome sequencing project of Alcanivorax borkumensis, which is a marine bacterium that uses exclusively petroleum oil hydrocarbons as sources of carbon and energy (therefore designated "hydrocarbonoclastic") . It is found in low numbers in all oceans of the world and in high numbers in oil-contaminated waters. Its ubiquity and unusual physiology suggest it is globally important in the removal of hydrocarbons from polluted marine systems. A functional genomics analysis of Alcanivorax borkumensis strain SK2 was recently initiated, and its genome sequence has just been completed. Annotation of the genome, metabolome modelling, and functional genomics, will soon reveal important insights into the genomic basis of the properties and physiology of this fascinating and globally important bacterium.