Skip to main content

Potential of industrial by-products and wastes from the Iberian Peninsula as carbon sources for sulphate-reducing bacteria


Industrial by-products and wastes from Portugal and Spain were tested for the first time as carbon sources/electron donors for sulphate-reducing bacteria. Cultures in mineral medium supplemented with the tested substrates were monitored, and sulphate reduction efficiency is discussed in light of substrates compositions, dosages and corresponding chemical oxygen demand/[SO42−] ratios. The results reveal the ability of those substrates to feed SRB and confirm that testing doses targeting ratios of 1.5 and values close to this was a good strategy to optimize sulphate reduction activity. As expected, this activity was faster for substrates that have in their composition simple compounds (such as low-chain alcohols and organic acids) and/or compounds that can be rapidly degraded (such as sugars), though it also occurred in a longer-term perspective with substrates composed mainly of slowly degradable compounds (such as cellulose and lignin). Thus, this work demonstrates the potential of new substrates and respective required doses to feed SRB bioreactors in long-term passive bioremediation processes or faster more active processes. That is, it opens the way for the use of such substrates in the treatment of sulphate-rich waters, as the acid mine drainage generated in some mines on the Iberian Pyrite Belt region, and it encourages further experiments to evaluate the use of SRB-based processes to treat the industrial wastewaters successfully tested in this work themselves, specially the olive mill wastewater which is still a problem for many small olive oil producers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Adapted from Relvas et al. (2006)

Fig. 2
Fig. 3


Download references


The authors also wish to acknowledge the company Águas do Algarve, namely Eng. Joaquim Freire and Eng. Patrício Fontinha, for supplying the WWTP sludge used to enrich cultures with SRB and companies that supplied the substrates tested as sources of carbon sources/electron donors (and the persons involved in this supply): Orange juice plant LARA—Laranja do Algarve S.A. (Eng. Pedro Pacheco), Factory of candies Dulciora (anonymous collaboration), Sugar processing plant Azucarera (Eng. Maria Hernandez Garcia), Olive mill Lagar Santa Catarina (Eng. Renato Rocha), Águas Públicas do Alentejo, WWTP Mina de São Domingos (Eng. Olga Martins), Paper and paper pulp factories Navigator Company (Eng. Luis Medeiros Machado and Eng. Patrícia Castellano Rodrigues).


The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) managed by REA-Research Executive Agency ( under Grant Agreement No. 619101; and the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) through the Project UID/Multi/04326/2019.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to M. C. Costa.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Additional information

Editorial responsibility: M. Abbaspour.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (PDF 275 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Carlier, J.D., Alexandre, L.M., Luís, A.T. et al. Potential of industrial by-products and wastes from the Iberian Peninsula as carbon sources for sulphate-reducing bacteria. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Technol. 16, 4719–4738 (2019).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Chemical oxygen demand/[SO4 2−] ratio
  • Electron donors
  • Organic substrates
  • Sulphate reduction