Syngas as electron donor for sulfate and thiosulfate reducing haloalkaliphilic microorganisms in a gas-lift bioreactor

Caroline M. Plugge*, João A.B. Sousa, Stephan Christel, Mark Dopson, Martijn F.M. Bijmans, Alfons J.M. Stams, Martijn Diender

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Biodesulfurization processes remove toxic and corrosive hydrogen sulfide from gas streams (e.g., natural gas, biogas, or syngas). To improve the efficiency of these processes under haloalkaline conditions, a sulfate and thiosulfate reduction step can be included. The use of H2 /CO mixtures (as in syngas) instead of pure H2 was tested to investigate the potential cost reduction of the electron donor required. Syngas is produced in the gas-reforming process and consists mainly of H2, carbon monoxide (CO), and carbon dioxide (CO2). Purification of syngas to obtain pure H2 implies higher costs because of additional post-treatment. Therefore, the use of syngas has merit in the biodesulfurization process. Initially, CO inhibited hydrogen-dependent sulfate reduction. However, after 30 days the biomass was adapted and both H2 and CO were used as electron donors. First, formate was produced, followed by sulfate and thiosulfate reduction, and later in the reactor run acetate and methane were detected. Sulfide production rates with sulfate and thiosulfate after adaptation were comparable with previously described rates with only hydrogen. The addition of CO marginally affected the microbial community in which Tindallia sp. was dominant. Over time, acetate production increased and acetogenesis became the dominant process in the bioreactor. Around 50% of H2/CO was converted to acetate. Acetate supported biomass growth and higher biomass concentrations were reached compared to bioreactors without CO feed. Finally, CO addition resulted in the formation of small, compact microbial aggregates. This suggests that CO or syngas can be used to stimulate aggregation in haloalkaline biodesulfurization systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1451
Pages (from-to)1-18
Number of pages18
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2020


  • Acetogenesis
  • Biomass retention
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Carrier material
  • Formate
  • Haloalkaline biodesulfurization
  • Hydrogen
  • Sulfate reduction
  • Thiosulfate reduction

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