Filter-collected production water samples from a methane-rich gas field in the Cook Inlet basin of Alaska were investigated using whole-cell rRNA-targeted fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and 16S rRNA tag pyrosequencing. Both techniques were consistent in determining the microbial community composition, including the archaeal or bacterial dominance of samples. The archaeal community is dominated by the obligate methylotrophic methanogen genus Methanolobus as well as the nutritional generalist methanogen genus Methanosarcina, which is capable of utilizing acetate, CO2, and methyl-bearing compounds. The most-abundant bacterial groups are Firmicutes, notably of the Acetobacterium genus, and Cytophaga-Flexibacter-Bacteroides species (CFBs) affiliated with the order Bacteroidales. We observed spatial variation among samples in both the percentage of members of Archaea compared to that of members of Bacteria and the dominant members of the bacterial community, differences which could not be explained with the available geochemical data. Based upon the microbial community composition and the isotopic signature of methane associated with the Cook Inlet basin site, we propose a simplified reaction network beginning with the breakdown of coal macromolecules, followed by fermentation and methylotrophic and acetoclastic methane production.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Food Science
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology