Geochemical influence on microbial communities at CO2-leakage analog sites

Baknoon Ham, Byoung Young Choi, Gi Tak Chae, Matthew F. Kirk, Man Jae Kwon

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Microorganisms influence the chemical and physical properties of subsurface environments and thus represent an important control on the fate and environmental impact of CO2 that leaks into aquifers from deep storage reservoirs. How leakage will influence microbial populations over long time scales is largely unknown. This study uses natural analog sites to investigate the long-term impact of CO2 leakage from underground storage sites on subsurface biogeochemistry. We considered two sites with elevated CO2 levels (sample groups I and II) and one control site with low CO2 content (group III). Samples from sites with elevated CO2 had pH ranging from 6.2 to 4.5 and samples from the low-CO2 control group had pH ranging from 7.3 to 6.2. Solute concentrations were relatively low for samples from the control group and group I but high for samples from group II, reflecting varying degrees of water-rock interaction. Microbial communities were analyzed through clone library and MiSeq sequencing. Each 16S rRNA analysis identified various bacteria, methane-producing archaea, and ammonia-oxidizing archaea. Both bacterial and archaeal diversities were low in groundwater with high CO2 content and community compositions between the groups were also clearly different. In group II samples, sequences classified in groups capable of methanogenesis, metal reduction, and nitrate reduction had higher relative abundance in samples with relative high methane, iron, and manganese concentrations and low nitrate levels. Sequences close to Comamonadaceae were abundant in group I, while the taxa related to methanogens, Nitrospirae, and Anaerolineaceae were predominant in group II. Our findings provide insight into subsurface biogeochemical reactions that influence the carbon budget of the system including carbon fixation, carbon trapping, and CO2 conversion to methane. The results also suggest that monitoring groundwater microbial community can be a potential tool for tracking CO2 leakage from geologic storage sites.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2203
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Nov 9

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Dr. Jung-Seok Yang, Dr. Song Kyung Geun, Mr. Yun Ho Hwang, and Mr. Wookjin Choi (KIST) and Mr. Jinyoung Park (KIGAM) for their help during instrumental analysis and sampling. This work was supported by the Basic Research Programs of the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources (KIGAM)(GP2017-027) and KIST-Gangneung Institute (Grant no. 2Z04690). The authors BH and MJK are being supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea Grant, funded by the Korean Government (MEST) (2015, University-Institute Cooperation Program)

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Ham, Choi, Chae, Kirk and Kwon.


  • Bacterial and archaeal community
  • CO leakage analog site
  • CO monitoring
  • Groundwater chemistry
  • Methanogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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