The roles of acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens during anaerobic conversion of biomass to methane: a review

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Abstract

Among different conversion processes for biomass, biological anaerobic digestion is one of the most economic ways to produce biogas from various biomass substrates. In addition to hydrolysis of polymeric substances, the activity and performance of the methanogenic bacteria is of paramount importance during methanogenesis. The aim of this paper is primarily to review the recent literature about the occurrence of both acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens during anaerobic conversion of particulate biomass to methane (not wastewater treatment), while this review does not cover the activity of the acetate oxidizing bacteria. Both acetotrophic and hydrogenotrophic methanogens are essential for the last step of methanogenesis, but the reports about their roles during this phase of the process are very limited. Despite, some conclusions can still be drawn. At low concentrations of acetate, normally filamentous Methanosaeta species dominate, e.g., often observed in sewage sludge. Apparently, high concentrations of toxic ionic agents, like ammonia, hydrogen sulfide (H2S) and volatile fatty acids (VFA), inhibit preferably Methanosaetaceae and especially allow the growth of Methanosarcina species consisting of irregular cell clumps, e.g., in cattle manure. Thermophilic conditions can favour rod like or coccoid hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Thermophilic Methanosarcina species were also observed, but not thermophilic Methanosaetae. Other environmental factors could favour hydrogentrophic bacteria, e.g., short or low retention times in a biomass reactor. However, no general rules regarding process parameters could be derivated at the moment, which favours hydrogenotrophic methanogens. Presumably, it depends only on the hydrogen concentration, which is generally not mentioned in the literature.