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ISME J. 2008 Apr;2(4):442-52. Epub 2007 Dec 13.

Thermodynamic constraints on methanogenic crude oil biodegradation.

Author information

1
School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. jan.dolfing@ncl.ac.uk

Abstract

Methanogenic degradation of crude oil hydrocarbons is an important process in subsurface petroleum reservoirs and anoxic environments contaminated with petroleum. There are several possible routes whereby hydrocarbons may be converted to methane: (i) complete oxidation of alkanes to H2 and CO2, linked to methanogenesis from CO2 reduction; (ii) oxidation of alkanes to acetate and H2, linked to acetoclastic methanogenesis and CO2 reduction; (iii) oxidation of alkanes to acetate and H2, linked to syntrophic acetate oxidation and methanogenesis from CO2 reduction; (iv) oxidation of alkanes to acetate alone, linked to acetoclastic methanogenesis and (v) oxidation of alkanes to acetate alone, linked to syntrophic acetate oxidation and methanogenesis from CO2 reduction. We have developed the concept of a 'window of opportunity' to evaluate the range of conditions under which each route is thermodynamically feasible. On this basis the largest window of opportunity is presented by the oxidation of alkanes to acetate alone, linked to acetoclastic methanogenesis. This contradicts field-based evidence that indicates that in petroleum rich environments acetoclastic methanogenesis is inhibited and that methanogenic CO2 reduction is the predominant methanogenic process. Our analysis demonstrates that under those biological constraints oxidation of alkanes to acetate and H2, linked to syntrophic acetate oxidation and methanogenesis from CO2 reduction offers a greater window of opportunity than complete oxidation of alkanes to H2 and CO2 linked to methanogenic CO2 reduction, and hence is the process most likely to occur.

PMID:
18079730
DOI:
10.1038/ismej.2007.111
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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