Indexed on: 21 Jan '16Published on: 21 Jan '16Published in: mBio
Oil reservoirs are major sites of methane production and carbon turnover, processes with significant impacts on energy resources and global biogeochemical cycles. We applied a cultivation-independent genomic approach to define microbial community membership and predict roles for specific organisms in biogeochemical transformations in Alaska North Slope oil fields. Produced water samples were collected from six locations between 1,128 m (24 to 27°C) and 2,743 m (80 to 83°C) below the surface. Microbial community complexity decreased with increasing temperature, and the potential to degrade hydrocarbon compounds was most prevalent in the lower-temperature reservoirs. Sulfate availability, rather than sulfate reduction potential, seems to be the limiting factor for sulfide production in some of the reservoirs under investigation. Most microorganisms in the intermediate- and higher-temperature samples were related to previously studied methanogenic and nonmethanogenic archaea and thermophilic bacteria, but one candidate phylum bacterium, a member of the Acetothermia (OP1), was present in Kuparuk sample K3. The greatest numbers of candidate phyla were recovered from the mesothermic reservoir samples SB1 and SB2. We reconstructed a nearly complete genome for an organism from the candidate phylum Parcubacteria (OD1) that was abundant in sample SB1. Consistent with prior findings for members of this lineage, the OD1 genome is small, and metabolic predictions support an obligately anaerobic, fermentation-based lifestyle. At moderate abundance in samples SB1 and SB2 were members of bacteria from other candidate phyla, including Microgenomates (OP11), Atribacteria (OP9), candidate phyla TA06 and WS6, and Marinimicrobia (SAR406). The results presented here elucidate potential roles of organisms in oil reservoir biological processes.The activities of microorganisms in oil reservoirs impact petroleum resource quality and the global carbon cycle. We show that bacteria belonging to candidate phyla are present in some oil reservoirs and provide the first insights into their potential roles in biogeochemical processes based on several nearly complete genomes.