Biological sulphide oxidation in heterotrophic environments

Rein, Neil Berthold. (2002) Biological sulphide oxidation in heterotrophic environments. Masters thesis, Rhodes University.




Acid mine drainage is a major environmental pollution concern associated with the mining of sulphide-containing ore bodies. Both physicochemical and biological options have been investigated for the treatment of acid mine drainage with recent interest in biological processes targeting low-cost and passive treatment applications. All acid mine drainage biological treatment processes are based to some extent on the activity of sulphate reducing bacteria, and their ability to reduce sulphate to sulphide in the presence of a range of carbon and electron donor sources. A portion of the sulphide produced may be consumed in the precipitation of heavy metals present in the mine drainage. Residual sulphide must be removed, not only due to its toxicity, but especially to prevent its reoxidation to sulphate where salinity reduction is a target of the treatment process. The partial oxidation of sulphide to elemental sulphur is an option that has received considerable attention and both physicochemical and biological options have been investigated. Biological processes have substantial potential cost advantages and run at ambient temperatures and pressures. However, the oxidation of sulphide to elemental sulphur is poised over a narrow redox range and process control to maintain optimum conditions remains a serious problem. In addition little has been reported in the literature on process control of sulphide oxidation to elemental sulphur, in the heterotrophic conditions prevailing in the reaction environment following sulphate reduction. This study undertook an investigation of biological sulphide oxidation under heterotrophic conditions in order to establish the effect of organic compounds on biological sulphide oxidation, and to determine whether the presence of organics, and associated heterotrophic oxygen consumption, may be manipulated to maintain the defined redox conditions required for the production of elemental sulphur. Biological sulphide oxidation under heterotrophic conditions was investigated in a series of flask experiments. Based on these results three different reactor configurations, a Fixed-Film Trickle Filter Reactor, Submerged Fixed-Film Reactor and a Silicone Tubular Reactor were used to investigate sulphur production. The flask studies indicated that organics, and associated heterotrophic metabolism in the presence of excess oxygen in the sulphide oxidation reaction environment, did contribute to the poising of redox conditions and thereby enabling the production of elemental sulphur. While the Fixed-Film Trickle Filter Reactor was found to be redox unstable, probably due to excess oxygen ingress to the system, a reduced oxygen challenge in the Submerged Fixed-Film Reactor configuration was found to be more successful for production of elemental sulphur. However, due to the production of a predominantly filamentous sulphur producing microbial population, recovery of sulphur from the column was intermittent and unpredictable. Extended residence times for produced sulphur on the column increased the likelihood for its eventual oxidation to sulphate. The Silicone Tubular Reactor was found to support a vigorous sulphide oxidising biofilm and produced elemental sulphur effectively. Electron microscopic studies showed that this occurred as both biologically produced sulphur and, probably mainly, as crystalline sulphur in the ortho-rhomic form. Given the linear extension of the sulphur production reaction environment it is was possible to investigate the sequence of the reaction mechanism in grater detail than is possible in mixed systems. Based on these findings a model explaining sulphur production under heterotrophic conditions has been proposed and is presented. The commercial implications of the development have also been noted.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Uncontrolled Keywords:Acid mine drainage, Sulphides, Oxidation
Subjects:Q Science > QR Microbiology
Divisions:Faculty > Faculty of Science > Biochemistry, Microbiology & Biotechnology
ID Code:2287
Deposited By: Mrs Carol Perold
Deposited On:01 Dec 2011 07:00
Last Modified:06 Jan 2012 16:22
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