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Environ Technol. 2013 Sep-Oct;34(17-20):2681-9.

Evaluation of microbial community composition in thermophilic methane-producing incubation of production water from a high-temperature oil reservoir.

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  • 1State Key Laboratory of Bioreactor Engineering and Institute of Applied Chemistry, East China University of Science and Technology, Shanghai, PR China.
  • 2School of Biological Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, PR China.


Investigation of petroleum microbes is fundamental for the development and utilization of oil reservoirs' microbial resources, and also provides great opportunities for research and development of bio-energy. Production water from a high-temperature oil reservoir was incubated anaerobically at 55 degrees C for more than 400 days without amendment of any nutrients. Over the time of incubation, about 1.6 mmol of methane and up to 107 micromol of hydrogen (H2) were detected in the headspace. Methane formation indicated that methanogenesis was likely the predominant process in spite of the presence of 23.4 mM SO4(2-) in the production water. Microbial community composition of the incubation was characterized by means of 16S rRNA gene clone libraries construction. Bacterial composition changed from Pseudomonales as the dominant population initially to Hydrogenophilales-related microorganisms affiliated to Petrobacter spp. closely. After 400 days of incubation, other bacterial members detected were related to Anareolineales, beta-, gamma-, and delta-Proteobacteria. The archaeal composition of the original production water was essentially composed of obligate acetoclastic methanogens of the genus Methanosaeta, but the incubation was predominantly composed of CO2-reducing methanogens of the genus Methanothermobacter and Crenarchaeotes-related microorganisms. Our results suggest that methanogenesis could be more active than expected in oil reservoir environments and methane formation from CO2-reduction played a significant role in the methanogenic community. This conclusion is consistent with the predominant role played by H2-oxidizing methanogens in the methanogenic conversion of organic matter in high-temperature petroleum reservoirs.

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