Anaerobic oxidation of methane : evaluation of alternative conditions

D.A. Suarez Zuluaga

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

Microorganisms capable of performing anaerobic oxidation of methane (AOM) coupled to sulphate reduction have high doubling times which make their enrichment difficult. However, due to higher energy gain, they might be rapidly enriched using alternative electron acceptors. In chapter 2, it was shown that up to 50 times higher conversion rates were obtained with thiosulphate when compared to sulphate. However, it was also presented that thiosulphate was not be exclusively used by microorganisms that reduce it, but that it was also disproportionated into sulphate and sulphide (Chapter 2).

In Chapter 3, a 5 litre membrane bioreactor was fed not only with methane and sulphate but also with acetate and thiosulphate. As previous experiments using these additional substrates had allowed to obtain either faster conversion rates or enrichment of methanotrophic microorganisms; it was expected that AOM rates in the reactor would increase relatively fast. However, the microorganisms that were enriched were not AOM related. They microbial community that showed the highest activity rates in the reactor was comprised by thiosulphate disproportionated bacteria and green sulphur bacteria. The former disproportionated thiosulphate into sulphate and sulphide while the latter converted the sulphide into elemental sulphur. 

Chapter 4, unlike the previous chapters, focused on studying the occurrence of AOM in a fresh water ecosystem. Such system was located next to a natural gas source which captured methane for domestic purposes.  It was presented how, with the different electron acceptors added, AOM and trace methane oxidation occurred. However, net AOM was only measured in the presence of sulphate as electron acceptor. Furthermore, the microorganisms that were enriched in the presence of methane and sulphate were also detected.

 

There are several hypotheses which attempted to explain the AOM coupled to sulphate reduction. One of them indicates that it is a process that involves two microorganisms working in a syntrophic relationship. The first microorganism would convert the methane into carbon dioxide and pass the electrons to the second one. Consequently, the second microorganism would convert the sulphate into hydrogen sulphide. In such a structure, the way that electrons are released by the conversion performed by the first microorganism is unknown. It is possible, that electrons are not transfer via electron shuttles or chemical compounds, but that they are transferred directly from one microorganism to the other. A methodology which could be used to determine if the AOM consortia uses direct electron transfer mechanisms was evaluated in Chapter 5. Different kinds of granular biomass were used for this evaluation and, the granule types that would potentially be capable of using direct electron transfer mechanisms were detected.

 

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Buisman, Cees, Promotor
  • Weijma, Jan, Co-promotor
Award date14 Oct 2015
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462574823
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Keywords

  • microorganisms
  • methane
  • oxidation
  • sulfates
  • reduction
  • bioreactors

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