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Selection and Application of Sulfide Oxidizing Microorganisms Able to Withstand Thiols in Gas Biodesulfurization Systems

Roman, Pawel, Klok, Johannes B. M., Sousa, João A. B., Broman, Elias, Dopson, Mark, Van Zessen, Erik, Bijmans, Martijn F. M., Sorokin, Dimitry Y., Janssen, Albert J. H.
Environmental Science & Technology 2016 v.50 no.23 pp. 12808-12815
Halothiobacillaceae, acclimation, bacteria, biogas, biomass, bioreactors, gases, genes, high-throughput nucleotide sequencing, hydrogen sulfide, methanethiol, microbial communities, oxygen, redox potential, ribosomal RNA, sulfur, thiosulfates
After the first commercial applications of a new biological process for the removal of hydrogen sulfide (H₂S) from low pressure biogas, the need arose to broaden the operating window to also enable the removal of organosulfur compounds from high pressure sour gases. In this study we have selected microorganisms from a full-scale biodesulfurization system that are capable of withstanding the presence of thiols. This full-scale unit has been in stable operation for more than 10 years. We investigated the microbial community by using high-throughput sequencing of 16S rRNA gene amplicons which showed that methanethiol gave a competitive advantage to bacteria belonging to the genera Thioalkalibacter (Halothiobacillaceae family) and Alkalilimnicola (Ectothiorhosdospiraceae family). The sulfide-oxidizing potential of the acclimatized population was investigated under elevated thiol loading rates (4.5–9.1 mM d–¹), consisting of a mix of methanethiol, ethanethiol, and propanethiol. With this biomass, it was possible to achieve a stable bioreactor operation at which 80% of the supplied H₂S (61 mM d–¹) was biologically oxidized to elemental sulfur. The remainder was chemically produced thiosulfate. Moreover, we found that a conventionally applied method for controlling the oxygen supply to the bioreactor, that is, by maintaining a redox potential set-point value, appeared to be ineffective in the presence of thiols.