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Anaerobic microbial communities and their potential for bioenergy production in heavily biodegraded petroleum reservoirs

Lookup NU author(s): Tetyana Korin, Dr Carolyn Aitken, Bernard Bowler, Dr Angela Sherry, Professor Ian Head, Dr Casey Hubert



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2020 The Authors. Environmental Microbiology published by Society for Applied Microbiology and John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Most of the oil in low temperature, non-uplifted reservoirs is biodegraded due to millions of years of microbial activity, including via methanogenesis from crude oil. To evaluate stimulating additional methanogenesis in already heavily biodegraded oil reservoirs, oil sands samples were amended with nutrients and electron acceptors, but oil sands bitumen was the only organic substrate. Methane production was monitored for over 3000 days. Methanogenesis was observed in duplicate microcosms that were unamended, amended with sulfate or that were initially oxic, however methanogenesis was not observed in nitrate-amended controls. The highest rate of methane production was 0.15 μmol CH4 g−1 oil d−1, orders of magnitude lower than other reports of methanogenesis from lighter crude oils. Methanogenic Archaea and several potential syntrophic bacterial partners were detected following the incubations. GC–MS and FTICR–MS revealed no significant bitumen alteration for any specific compound or compound class, suggesting that the very slow methanogenesis observed was coupled to bitumen biodegradation in an unspecific manner. After 3000 days, methanogenic communities were amended with benzoate resulting in methanogenesis rates that were 110-fold greater. This suggests that oil-to-methane conversion is limited by the recalcitrant nature of oil sands bitumen, not the microbial communities resident in heavy oil reservoirs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): de Rezende JR, Oldenburg TBP, Korin T, Richardson WDL, Fustic M, Aitken CM, Bowler BFJ, Sherry A, Grigoryan A, Voordouw G, Larter SR, Head IM, Hubert CRJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Environmental Microbiology

Year: 2020

Volume: 22

Issue: 8

Pages: 3049-3065

Print publication date: 01/08/2020

Online publication date: 25/03/2020

Acceptance date: 22/03/2020

Date deposited: 12/07/2021

ISSN (print): 1462-2912

ISSN (electronic): 1462-2920

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd


DOI: 10.1111/1462-2920.14995


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