Impacts of shallow geothermal energy production on redox processes and the microbial communities

M. Bonte, W.F.M. Roling, E. Zaura, P.W.W.J van der Wielen, P.J. Stuyfzand, B.M. van Breukelen, P.J. Stuijfzand

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Shallow geothermal systems are increasingly being used to store or harvest thermal energy for heating or cooling purposes. This technology causes temperature perturbations exceeding the natural variations in aquifers, which may impact groundwater quality. Here, we report the results of laboratory experiments on the effect of temperature variations (5-80 C) on redox processes and associated microbial communities in anoxic unconsolidated subsurface sediments. Both hydrochemical and microbiological data showed that a temperature increase from 11 C (in situ) to 25 C caused a shift from iron-reducing to sulfate-reducing and methanogenic conditions. Bioenergetic calculations could explain this shift. A further temperature increase (>45 C) resulted in the emergence of a thermophilic microbial community specialized in fermentation and sulfate reduction. Two distinct maxima in sulfate reduction rates, of similar orders of magnitude (5 × 10
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14476-14484
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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