Assessing the Efficacy of the Aerobic Methanotrophic Biofilter in Methane Hydrate Environments

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In October 2008 the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) initiated investigations of water column methane oxidation in methane hydrate environments, through a project funded by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) entitled: assessing the efficacy of the aerobic methanotrophic biofilter in methane hydrate environments. This Final Report describes the scientific advances and discoveries made under this award as well as the importance of these discoveries in the broader context of the research area. Benthic microbial mats inhabit the sea floor in areas where reduced chemicals such as sulfide reach the more oxidizing water that overlies the sediment. We ... continued below

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Valentine, David September 30, 2012.

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In October 2008 the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) initiated investigations of water column methane oxidation in methane hydrate environments, through a project funded by the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) entitled: assessing the efficacy of the aerobic methanotrophic biofilter in methane hydrate environments. This Final Report describes the scientific advances and discoveries made under this award as well as the importance of these discoveries in the broader context of the research area. Benthic microbial mats inhabit the sea floor in areas where reduced chemicals such as sulfide reach the more oxidizing water that overlies the sediment. We set out to investigate the role that methanotrophs play in such mats at locations where methane reaches the sea floor along with sulfide. Mats were sampled from several seep environments and multiple sets were grown in-situ at a hydrocarbon seep in the Santa Barbara Basin. Mats grown in-situ were returned to the laboratory and used to perform stable isotope probing experiments in which they were treated with 13C-enriched methane. The microbial community was analyzed, demonstrating that three or more microbial groups became enriched in methane?s carbon: methanotrophs that presumably utilize methane directly, methylotrophs that presumably consume methanol excreted by the methanotrophs, and sulfide oxidizers that presumably consume carbon dioxide released by the methanotrophs and methylotrophs. Methanotrophs reached high relative abundance in mats grown on methane, but other bacterial processes include sulfide oxidation appeared to dominate mats, indicating that methanotrophy is not a dominant process in sustaining these benthic mats, but rather a secondary function modulated by methane availability. Methane that escapes the sediment in the deep ocean typically dissolved into the overlying water where it is available to methanotrophic bacteria. We set out to better understand the efficacy of this process as a biofilter by studying the distribution of methane oxidation and disposition of methanotrophic populations in the Pacific Ocean. We investigated several environments including the basins offshore California, the continental margin off Central America, and the shallow waters around gas seeps. We succeeded in identifying the distributions of activity in these environments, identified potential physical and chemical controls on methanotrophic activity, we further revealed details about the methanotrophic communities active in these settings, and we developed new approaches to study methanotrophic communities. These findings should improve our capacity to predict the methanotrophic response in ocean waters, and further our ability to generate specific hypotheses as to the ecology and efficacy of pelagic methanotrophic communites. The discharge of methane and other hydrocarbons to Gulf of Mexico that followed the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon provided a unique opportunity to study the methanotorphic biofilter in the deep ocean environment. We set out to understand the consumption of methane and the bloom of methanotrophs resulting from this event, as a window into the regional scale release of gas hydrate under rapid warming scenarios. We found that other hydrocarbon gases, notably propane and ethane, were preferred for consumption over methane, but that methane consumption accelerated rapidly and drove the depletion of methane within a matter of months after initial release. These results revealed the identity of the responsible community, and point to the importance of the seed population in determining the rate at which a methanotrophic community is able to respond to an input of methane. Collectively, these results provide a significant advance in our understanding of the marine methanotrohic biofilter, and further provide direction and context for future investigations of this important phenomenon. This project has resulted in fourteen publications to date, with five more circulating in draft form, and several others planned.

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  • Report No.: None
  • Grant Number: NT0005667
  • DOI: 10.2172/1083752 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 1083752
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc838360

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  • September 30, 2012

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • May 19, 2016, 9:45 a.m.

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  • Nov. 22, 2016, 7:47 p.m.

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Valentine, David. Assessing the Efficacy of the Aerobic Methanotrophic Biofilter in Methane Hydrate Environments, report, September 30, 2012; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc838360/: accessed December 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.