Reported values for growth kinetic parameters show an order in competitivity of heterotrophic sulfate reducing bacteria>methanogens>homoacetogens for the substrate hydrogen. This order suggests that methanogens can succesfully compete with consortia of heterotrophic SRB and homoacetogens when H2/CO2 is present as sole substrate. However, we found in experiments using gas-lift reactors inoculated with anaerobic sludge and fed with H2/CO2 and sulfate, that heterotrophic sulfate reduction rapidly and completely outcompeted methanogenesis, whereas a low amount of acetate was formed. Thus, in disagreement with the above competitivity order, hydrogen is more readily consumed by homoacetogenesis than by methanogenesis, indicating that the competition is not kinetically determined. The superior settling velocity of sulfidogenic-acetogenic sludge compared to that of methanogenic sludge suggests that the former sludge is better retained, which can explain the predominance of sulfate reduction/homoacetogenesis over methanogenesis.

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