Anaerobic methane oxidation coupled to sulphate reduction and the use of ethane and propane as electron donors by sulphate-reducing bacteria represent new opportunities for the treatment of streams contaminated with sulphur oxyanions. However, growth of microbial sulphate-reducing populations with methane, propane or butane is extremely slow, which hampers research and development of bioprocesses based on these conversions. Thermodynamic calculations indicate that the growth rate with possible alternative terminal electron acceptors such as thiosulphate and elemental sulphur may be higher, which would facilitate future research. Here, we investigate the use of these electron acceptors for oxidation of methane, ethane and propane, with marine sediment as inoculum. Mixed marine sediments originating from Aarhus Bay (Denmark) and Eckernförde Bay (Germany) were cultivated anaerobically at a pH between 7.2 and 7.8 and a temperature of 15 °C in the presence of methane, ethane and propane and various sulphur electron acceptors. The sulphide production rates in the conditions with methane, ethane and propane with sulphate were respectively 2.3, 2.2 and 1.8 µmol S L-1 day-1. For sulphur, no reduction was demonstrated. For thiosulphate, the sulphide production rates were up to 50 times higher compared to those of sulphate, with 86.2, 90.7 and 108.1 µmol S L-1 day-1 for methane, ethane and propane respectively. This sulphide production was partly due to disproportionation, 50 % for ethane but only 7 and 14 % for methane and propane respectively. The oxidation of the alkanes in the presence of thiosulphate was confirmed by carbon dioxide production. This is, to our knowledge, the first report of thiosulphate use as electron acceptor with ethane and propane as electron donors. Additionally, these results indicate that thiosulphate is a promising electron acceptor to increase start-up rates for sulphate-reducing bioprocesses coupled to short-chain alkane oxidation.
- sulfate-reducing bacteria
- sulfur cycle
- aarhus bay
Suarez Zuluaga, D. A., Weijma, J., Timmers, P. H. A., & Buisman, C. J. N. (2015). High rates of anaerobic oxidation of methane, ethane and propane coupled to thiosulphate reduction. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 22(5), 3697-3704. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-014-3606-0