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Carbon isotopic analysis of methane has become a popular technique in the exploration for oil and gas because it can be used to differentiate between thermogenic and microbial gas and can sometimes be used for gas-source rock correlations. Methane-oxidizing bacteria, however, can significantly change the carbon isotopic composition of methane; the origin of gas that has been partially oxidized by these bacteria could therefore be misinterpreted. We cultured methane-oxidizing bacteria at two different temperatures and monitored the carbon and hydrogen isotopic compositions of the residual methane. The residual methane was enriched in both 13C and D. For both isotopic species, the enrichment at equivalent levels of conversion was greater at 26??C than at 11.5??C. The change in ??D relative to the change in ??13C was independent of temperature within the range studied. One culture exhibited a change in the fractionation pattern for carbon (but not for hydrogen) midway through the experiment, suggesting that bacterial oxidation of methane may occur via more than one pathway. The change in the ??D value for the residual methane was from 8 to 14 times greater than the change in the ??13C value, indicating that combined carbon and hydrogen isotopic analysis may be an effective way of identifying methane which has been subjected to partial oxidation by bacteria. ?? 1981.
Additional Publication Details
Fractionation of carbon and hydrogen isotopes by methane-oxidizing bacteria