Long-chain n-alkane biodegradation coupling to methane production in an enriched culture from production water of a high-temperature oil reservoir

Jing Chen, Yi Fan Liu, Lei Zhou, Muhammad Irfan, Zhao Wei Hou, Wei Li, Serge Maurice Mbadinga, Jin Feng Liu, Shi Zhong Yang, Xiao Lin Wu, Ji Dong Gu, Bo Zhong Mu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Paraffinic n-alkanes (C22–C30), crucial portions of residual oil, are generally considered to be difficult to be biodegraded owing to their general solidity at ambient temperatures and low water solubility, rendering relatively little known about metabolic processes in different methanogenic hydrocarbon-contaminated environments. Here, we established a methanogenic C22–C30 n-alkane-degrading enrichment culture derived from a high-temperature oil reservoir production water. During two-year incubation (736 days), unexpectedly significant methane production was observed. The measured maximum methane yield rate (164.40 μmol L−1 d−1) occurred during the incubation period from day 351 to 513. The nearly complete consumption (> 97%) of paraffinic n-alkanes and the detection of dicarboxylic acids in n-alkane-amended cultures indicated the biotransformation of paraffin to methane under anoxic condition. 16S rRNA gene analysis suggested that the dominant methanogen in n-alkane-degrading cultures shifted from Methanothermobacter on day 322 to Thermoplasmatales on day 736. Bacterial community analysis based on high-throughput sequencing revealed that members of Proteobacteria and Firmicutes exhibiting predominant in control cultures, while microorganisms affiliated with Actinobacteria turned into the most dominant phylum in n-alkane-dependent cultures. Additionally, the relative abundance of mcrA gene based on genomic DNA significantly increased over the incubation time, suggesting an important role of methanogens in these consortia. This work extends our understanding of methanogenic paraffinic n-alkanes conversion and has biotechnological implications for microbial enhanced recovery of residual hydrocarbons and effective bioremediation of hydrocarbon-containing biospheres.

Original languageEnglish
Article number63
JournalAMB Express
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Anaerobic biodegradation
  • High-temperature oil/petroleum reservoir
  • Long-chain n-alkanes
  • Metabolic pathway
  • Methanogenesis


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