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Front Microbiol. 2012 Nov 30;3:412. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2012.00412. eCollection 2012.

Microbial communities associated with wet flue gas desulfurization systems.

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Department of Biology, The University of Akron, Akron OH, USA.


Flue gas desulfurization (FGD) systems are employed to remove SO(x) gasses that are produced by the combustion of coal for electric power generation, and consequently limit acid rain associated with these activities. Wet FGDs represent a physicochemically extreme environment due to the high operating temperatures and total dissolved solids (TDS) of fluids in the interior of the FGD units. Despite the potential importance of microbial activities in the performance and operation of FGD systems, the microbial communities associated with them have not been evaluated. Microbial communities associated with distinct process points of FGD systems at several coal-fired electricity generation facilities were evaluated using culture-dependent and -independent approaches. Due to the high solute concentrations and temperatures in the FGD absorber units, culturable halothermophilic/tolerant bacteria were more abundant in samples collected from within the absorber units than in samples collected from the makeup waters that are used to replenish fluids inside the absorber units. Evaluation of bacterial 16S rRNA genes recovered from scale deposits on the walls of absorber units revealed that the microbial communities associated with these deposits are primarily composed of thermophilic bacterial lineages. These findings suggest that unique microbial communities develop in FGD systems in response to physicochemical characteristics of the different process points within the systems. The activities of the thermophilic microbial communities that develop within scale deposits could play a role in the corrosion of steel structures in FGD systems.


flue gas desulfurization; microbially influenced corrosion; thermophiles

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