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Environ Sci Technol. 2010 Jul 1;44(13):5270-6. doi: 10.1021/es903270w.

Microbially enhanced carbon capture and storage by mineral-trapping and solubility-trapping.

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Center for Biofilm Engineering, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717, USA.


The potential of microorganisms for enhancing carbon capture and storage (CCS) via mineral-trapping (where dissolved CO(2) is precipitated in carbonate minerals) and solubility trapping (as dissolved carbonate species in solution) was investigated. The bacterial hydrolysis of urea (ureolysis) was investigated in microcosms including synthetic brine (SB) mimicking a prospective deep subsurface CCS site with variable headspace pressures [p(CO(2))] of (13)C-CO(2). Dissolved Ca(2+) in the SB was completely precipitated as calcite during microbially induced hydrolysis of 5-20 g L(-1) urea. The incorporation of carbonate ions from (13)C-CO(2) ((13)C-CO(3)(2-)) into calcite increased with increasing p((13)CO(2)) and increasing urea concentrations: from 8.3% of total carbon in CaCO(3) at 1 g L(-1) to 31% at 5 g L(-1), and 37% at 20 g L(-1). This demonstrated that ureolysis was effective at precipitating initially gaseous [CO(2)(g)] originating from the headspace over the brine. Modeling the change in brine chemistry and carbonate precipitation after equilibration with the initial p(CO(2)) demonstrated that no net precipitation of CO(2)(g) via mineral-trapping occurred, since urea hydrolysis results in the production of dissolved inorganic carbon. However, the pH increase induced by bacterial ureolysis generated a net flux of CO(2)(g) into the brine. This reduced the headspace concentration of CO(2) by up to 32 mM per 100 mM urea hydrolyzed because the capacity of the brine for carbonate ions was increased, thus enhancing the solubility-trapping capacity of the brine. Together with the previously demonstrated permeability reduction of rock cores at high pressure by microbial biofilms and resilience of biofilms to supercritical CO(2), this suggests that engineered biomineralizing biofilms may enhance CCS via solubility-trapping, mineral formation, and CO(2)(g) leakage reduction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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