Biogenic methane production in formation waters from a large gas field in the North Sea

Neil D. Gray, Angela Sherry, Stephen R. Larter, Michael Erdmann, Juliette Leyris, Turid Liengen, Janiche Beeder, Ian M. Head

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Citations (Scopus)


Methanogenesis was investigated in formation waters from a North Sea oil rimmed gas accumulation containing biodegraded oil, which has not been subject to seawater injection. Activity and growth of hydrogenotrophic methanogens was measured but acetoclastic methanogenesis was not detected. Hydrogenotrophic methanogens showed activity between 40 and 80°C with a temperature optimum (ca. 70°C) consistent with in situ reservoir temperatures. They were also active over a broad salinity range, up to and consistent with the high salinity of the waters (90 g l-1). These findings suggest the methanogens are indigenous to the reservoir. The conversion of H2 and CO2 to CH4 in methanogenic enrichments was enhanced by the addition of inorganic nutrients and was correlated with cell growth. Addition of yeast extract also stimulated methanogenesis. Archaeal 16S rRNA gene sequences recovered from enrichment cultures were closely related to Methanothermobacter spp. which have been identified in other high-temperature petroleum reservoirs. It has recently been suggested that methanogenic oil degradation may be a major factor in the development of the world's heavy oils and represent a significant and ongoing process in conventional deposits. Although an oil-degrading methanogenic consortium was not enriched from these samples the presence and activity of communities of fermentative bacteria and methanogenic archaea was demonstrated. Stimulation of methanogenesis by addition of nutrients suggests that in situ methanogenic biodegradation of oil could be harnessed to enhance recovery of stranded energy assets from such petroleum systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-519
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Early online date21 Mar 2009
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2009
Externally publishedYes


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