Combination of aquifer thermal energy storage and enhanced bioremediation: resilience of reductive dechlorination to redox changes

Zhuobiao Ni*, Pauline van Gaans, Martijn Smit, Huub Rijnaarts, Tim Grotenhuis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


To meet the demand for sustainable energy, aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES) is widely used in the subsurface in urban areas. However, contamination of groundwater, especially with chlorinated volatile organic compounds (CVOCs), is often being encountered. This is commonly seen as an impediment to ATES implementation, although more recently, combining ATES and enhanced bioremediation of CVOCs has been proposed. Issues to be addressed are the high water flow velocities and potential periodic redox fluctuation that accompany ATES. A column study was performed, at a high water flow velocity of 2 m/h, simulating possible changes in subsurface redox conditions due to ATES operation by serial additions of lactate and nitrate. The impacts of redox changes on reductive dechlorination as well as the microbial response of Dehalococcoides (DHC) were evaluated. The results showed that, upon lactate addition, reductive dechlorination proceeded well and complete dechlorination from cis-DCE to ethene was achieved. Upon subsequent nitrate addition, reductive dechlorination immediately ceased. Disruption of microorganisms’ retention was also immediate and possibly detached DHC which preferred attaching to the soil matrix under biostimulation conditions. Initially, recovery of dechlorination was possible but required bioaugmentation and nutrient amendment in addition to lactate dosing. Repeated interruption of dechlorination and DHC activity by nitrate dosing appeared to be less easily reversible requiring more efforts for regenerating dechlorination. Overall, our results indicate that the microbial resilience of DHC in biosimulated ATES conditions is sensitive to redox fluctuations. Hence, combining ATES with bioremediation requires dedicated operation and monitoring on the aquifer geochemical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3767-3780
JournalApplied Microbiology and Biotechnology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Aquifer thermal energy storage (ATES)
  • cis-dichloroethene (cis-DCE)
  • Dehalococcoides
  • Microbial resilience
  • Redox potential (E)
  • Reductive dechlorination


Dive into the research topics of 'Combination of aquifer thermal energy storage and enhanced bioremediation: resilience of reductive dechlorination to redox changes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this