An esterase activity has been found, both in the cell-free growth medium and on the cell surface of the hydrocarbon-degrading Acinetobacter calcoaceticus RAG-1. The enzyme catalyzed the hydrolysis of acetyl and other acyl groups from triglycerides and aryl and alkyl esters. Emulsan, the extracellular heteropolysaccharide bioemulsifier produced by strain RAG-1, was also a substrate for the enzyme. Gel filtration showed that the cell-free enzyme was released from the cell surface either emulsan free or associated with the bioemulsifier. The partially purified enzyme was found to interact specifically with the esterified fully active emulsan, but not with the deesterified polymer. A role for esterase in emulsan release from the cell surface was indicated when the enzyme was preferentially depleted from the cell surface under conditions in which emulsan was not released. Such cells lost the capacity to release the biopolymer.