Stable hydrogen-isotope values of ground water (δ2H) and dissolved hydrogen concentrations (H(2(aq)) were quantified in a petroleum-hydrocarbon contaminated aquifer to determine whether the production/consumption of H2 by subsurface microorganisms affects ground water &delta2H values. The range of &delta2H observed in monitoring wells sampled (-27.8 ‰c to -15.5 ‰c) was best explained, however, by seasonal differences in recharge temperature as indicated using ground water δ18O values, rather than isotopic exchange reactions involving the microbial cycling of H2 during anaerobic petroleum-hydrocarbon biodegradation. The absence of a measurable hydrogen-isotope exchange between microbially cycled H2 and ground water reflects the fact that the amount of H2 available from the anaerobic decomposition of petroleum hydrocarbons is small relative to the amount of hydrogen present in water, even though milligram per liter concentrations of readily biodegradable contaminants are present at the study site. Additionally, isotopic fractionation calculations indicate that in order for H2 cycling processes to affect δ2H values of ground water, relatively high concentrations of H2 (>0.080 M) would have to be maintained, considerably higher than the 0.2 to 26 nM present at this site and characteristic of anaerobic conditions in general. These observations suggest that the conventional approach of using δ2H and δ18O values to determine recharge history is appropriate even for those ground water systems characterized by anaerobic conditions and extensive microbial H2 cycling.
Additional publication details
Microbial H2 cycling does not affect δ2H values of ground water