Methanogenic hydrocarbon degradation is an important biogeochemical process in oil reservoirs; however, genomic DNA-based analysis of microorganisms and metabolite detection are not conclusive for identification of the ongoing nature of this bioprocess. In this study, a suite of analyses, involving the study of microbial community and selective gene quantification of both genomic DNA and RNA together with signature metabolites, were performed to comprehensively advance the understanding of the methanogenic biodegradation of hydrocarbons in a low-temperature oilfield. The fumarate addition products for alkanes—C4, C5, and C7-alkylsuccinates—and transcribed assA and mcrA genes were simultaneously detected in the production water sample, providing robust and convincing evidence for both the initial activation of n-alkanes and methane metabolism in this oilfield. The clone library of assA gene transcripts showed that Smithella was active and most likely responsible for the addition of fumarate to n-alkanes, whereas Methanoculleus and Methanothrix were the dominant and active methane-producers via CO2 reduction and acetoclastic pathways, respectively. Additionally, qPCR results of assA and mcrA genes and their transcribed gene copy numbers revealed a roughly similar transcriptional activity in both n-alkanes-degraders and methane producers, implying that they were the major participants in the methanogenic degradation of n-alkanes in this oilfield. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report presenting sufficient speculation, through detection of signature intermediates, corresponding gene quantification at transcriptional levels, and microbial community analysis, of methanogenic degradation of n-alkanes in production water of an oil reservoir.
- Fumarate addition
- Oil reservoir