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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Microbial inhibition of methane clathrate hydrates Townson, Iwan Meredydd


Two microbial species were tested for inhibition of methane hydrates in a stirred crystallizer (subcooling of 2.34 K). The ice associating Chryseobacterium sp. Strain C14, grown in 0.5 wt% Tryptic Soy Broth (TSB) delayed hydrate nucleation, on average, by 30.3 hours compared to 37.9 hours for the PVP solutions. Escherichia coli TG2 in 0.5 wt% TSB was used as a non ice associating bacteria control and surprisingly had the longest induction period of 118.1 hours, suggesting that it was 3 times more effective as a hydrate inhibitor than PVP. The 0.5 wt% aq. TSB solution without bacteria delayed hydrate nucleation an average of 6.7 hours, whilst bacteria without TSB also showed significant inhibition. However, for the bacteria and bacteria + TSB systems, nucleation times were far more sporadic and time dependant than the simple systems of pure water and PVP. PVP decreased hydrate growth rate but increased gas consumption by nearly 4 fold. TSB without bacteria promoted gas consumption by over 2 fold but exhibited a slightly higher growth rate than the pure water solution. Reasons for the differences in growth profiles may be a result of the observed morphological differences in the hydrate phase. Chryseobacterium in 0.5 wt% aq. TSB had a distinct time dependency in growth characteristics and promoted growth rate almost 3 fold. E. coli in 0.5 wt% TSB showed a unique S-curve growth profile where the initial growth rate was very low. The differences in growth profiles of the two bacteria suggest different inhibition mechanisms. Ice-associating proteins likely play a significant role in hydrate formation, especially for Chryseobacterium which has shown inhibition of ice recrystallization. However, the interaction of other non-ice associating macromolecules may play a primary role in the observed inhibition and that biofilm formation may act as a barrier between the gas-liquid and/or heterogeneous nucleating solid-liquid interfaces which may help explain the significant inhibition observed by E. coli. Considering that both species of bacteria yielded significant hydrate inhibition, albeit somewhat unpredictable, but since the procedure is simple, the potential of employing bacteria as ‘Microbial Hydrate Inhibitors’ looks promising. However, consistent inhibition will be a challenge to overcome so that these organisms could be used as other KHI solutions.

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