Microbial potential for carbon and nutrient cycling in a geogenic supercritical carbon dioxide reservoir

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SummaryMicroorganisms catalyze carbon cycling and biogeochemical reactions in the deep subsurface and thus may be expected to influence the fate of injected supercritical (sc) CO2 following geological carbon sequestration (GCS). We hypothesized that natural subsurface scCO2 reservoirs, which serve as analogs for the long-term fate of sequestered scCO2, harbor a ‘deep carbonated biosphere’ with carbon cycling potential. We sampled subsurface fluids from scCO2-water separators at a natural scCO2 reservoir at McElmo Dome, Colorado for analysis of 16S rRNA gene diversity and metagenome content. Sequence annotations indicated dominance ofSulfurospirillum,Rhizobium, Desulfovibrioand four members of the Clostridiales family. Genomes extracted from metagenomes using homology and compositional approaches revealed diverse mechanisms for growth and nutrient cycling, including pathways for CO2 and N2 fixation, anaerobic respiration, sulfur oxidation, fermentation and potential for metabolic syntrophy. Differences in biogeochemical potential between two production well communities were consistent with differences in fluid chemical profiles, suggesting a potential link between microbial activity and geochemistry. The existence of a microbial ecosystem associated with the McElmo Dome scCO2 reservoir indicates that potential impacts of the deep biosphere on CO2 fate and transport should be taken into consideration as a component of GCS planning and modelling.

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