Bacterial ethane formation from reduced, ethylated sulfur compounds in anoxic sediments

Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
By: , and 



Trace levels of ethane were produced biologically in anoxic sediment slurries from five chemically different aquatic environments. Gases from these locations displayed biogenic characteristics, having 12C-enriched values of δ13CH4 (−62 to −86%.), δ13C2H6 (−35 to −55%.) and high ratios (720 to 140,000) of CH4[C2H6+ C3H8]. Endogenous production of ethane by slurries was inhibited by autoclaving or by addition of the inhibitor of methanogenic bacteria, 2-bromoethanesulfonic acid (BES). Ethane formation was stimulated markedly by ethanethiol (ESH), and, to a lesser extent, by diethylsulfide (DES). Formation of methane and ethane in ESH- or DES-amended slurries was blocked by BES. Experiments showed that ethionine (or an analogous compound) could be a precursor of ESH. Ethylamine or ethanol additions to slurries caused only a minor stimulation of ethane formation. Similarly, propanethiol additions resulted in only a minor enhancement of propane formation. Cell suspensions of a methyltrophic methanogen produced traces of ethane when incubated in the presence of DES, although the organism did not grow on this compound. These results indicate that methanogenic bacteria produce ethane from the traces of ethylated sulfur compounds present in recent sediments. Preliminary estimates of stable carbon isotope fractionation associated with sediment methane formation from dimethylsulfide was about 40%., while ethane formation from DES and ESH was only 4. 6 and 6.5%., respectively.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Bacterial ethane formation from reduced, ethylated sulfur compounds in anoxic sediments
Series title Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
DOI 10.1016/0016-7037(88)90013-0
Volume 52
Issue 7
Year Published 1988
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) San Francisco Bay-Delta, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, Pacific Regional Director's Office
Description 10 p.
First page 1895
Last page 1904
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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