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Spore-Forming Thermophilic Sulfate-Reducing Bacteria Isolated from North Sea Oil Field Waters

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  • General Microbial Ecology
  • Biology


Thermophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria were isolated from oil field waters from oil production platforms in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Spore-forming rods dominated in the enrichments when lactate, propionate, butyrate, or a mixture of aliphatic fatty acids (C4 through C6) was added as a carbon source and electron donor. Representative strains were isolated and characterized. The isolates grew autotrophically on H2-CO2 and heterotrophically on fatty acids such as formate, propionate, butyrate, caproate, valerate, pyruvate, and lactate and on alcohols such as methanol, ethanol, and propanol. Sulfate, sulfite, and thiosulfate but not nitrate could be used as an electron acceptor. The temperature range for growth was 43 to 78°C; the spores were extremely heat resistant and survived 131°C for 20 min. The optimum pH was 7.0. The isolates grew well in salt concentrations ranging from 0 to 800 mmol of NaCl per liter. Sulfite reductase P582 was present, but cytochrome c and desulfoviridin were not found. Electron micrographs revealed a gram-positive cell organization. The isolates were classified as a Desulfotomaculum sp. on the basis of spore formation, general physiological characteristics, and submicroscopic organization. To detect thermophilic spore-forming sulfate-reducing bacteria in oil field water, polyvalent antisera raised against antigens from two isolates were used. These bacteria were shown to be widespread in oil field water from different platforms. The origin of thermophilic sulfate-reducing bacteria in the pore water of oil reservoirs is discussed.

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