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Inhibition of microbiological sulfide oxidation by methanethiol and dimethyl polysulfides at natron-alkaline conditions


To avoid problems related to the discharge of sulfidic spent caustics, a biotechnological process is developed for the treatment of gases containing both hydrogen sulfide and methanethiol. The process operates at natron-alkaline conditions (>1 mol L−1 of sodium- and potassium carbonates and a pH of 8.5–10) to enable the treatment of gases with a high partial CO2 pressure. In the process, methanethiol reacts with biologically produced sulfur particles to form a complex mixture predominantly consisting of inorganic polysulfides, dimethyl disulfide (DMDS), and dimethyl trisulfide (DMTS). The effect of these organic sulfur compounds on the biological oxidation of sulfide to elemental sulfur was studied with natron-alkaliphilic bacteria belonging to the genus Thioalkalivibrio. Biological oxidation rates were reduced by 50% at 0.05 mM methanethiol, while for DMDS and DMTS, this was estimated to occur at 1.5 and 1.0 mM, respectively. The inhibiting effect of methanethiol on biological sulfide oxidation diminished due to its reaction with biologically produced sulfur particles. This reaction increases the feasibility of biotechnological treatment of gases containing both hydrogen sulfide and methanethiol at natron-alkaline conditions.

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This work was supported by the Dutch technology foundation STW (grant WBC.5939), Shell Global Solutions International BV (Amsterdam, The Netherlands) and Paques BV (Balk, The Netherlands). We thank Dr. D. Sorokin (TU Delft) for supplying the natronophilic SOB.

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Correspondence to Pim L. F. van den Bosch.

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Open Access This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Noncommercial License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0), which permits any noncommercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.

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van den Bosch, P.L.F., de Graaff, M., Fortuny-Picornell, M. et al. Inhibition of microbiological sulfide oxidation by methanethiol and dimethyl polysulfides at natron-alkaline conditions. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 83, 579–587 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00253-009-1951-6

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  • Methanethiol
  • Polysulfide
  • Sulfide oxidation
  • Spent caustics
  • Thioalkalivibrio