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Inhibition of microbial sulfate reduction in a flow-through column system by (per)chlorate treatment.


Microbial sulfate reduction is a primary cause of oil reservoir souring. Here we show that amendment with chlorate or perchlorate [collectively (per)chlorate] potentially resolves this issue. Triplicate packed columns inoculated with marine sediment were flushed with coastal water amended with yeast extract and one of nitrate, chlorate, or perchlorate. Results showed that although sulfide production was dramatically reduced by all treatments, effluent sulfide was observed in the nitrate (10 mM) treatment after an initial inhibition period. In contrast, no effluent sulfide was observed with (per)chlorate (10 mM). Microbial community analyses indicated temporal community shifts and phylogenetic clustering by treatment. Nitrate addition stimulated Xanthomonadaceae and Rhizobiaceae growth, supporting their role in nitrate metabolism. (Per)chlorate showed distinct effects on microbial community structure compared with nitrate and resulted in a general suppression of the community relative to the untreated control combined with a significant decrease in sulfate reducing species abundance indicating specific toxicity. Furthermore, chlorate stimulated Pseudomonadaceae and Pseudoalteromonadaceae, members of which are known chlorate respirers, suggesting that chlorate may also control sulfidogenesis by biocompetitive exclusion of sulfate-reduction. Perchlorate addition stimulated Desulfobulbaceae and Desulfomonadaceae, which contain sulfide oxidizing and elemental sulfur-reducing species respectively, suggesting that effluent sulfide concentrations may be controlled through sulfur redox cycling in addition to toxicity and biocompetitive exclusion. Sulfur isotope analyses further support sulfur cycling in the columns, even when sulfide is not detected. This study indicates that (per)chlorate show great promise as inhibitors of sulfidogenesis in natural communities and provides insight into which organisms and respiratory processes are involved.

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