Everything You Need to Know About Sulfate Reduction Activity

Sulfate reduction is a major cause of corrosion in many environments. Since it can cause major damage to metal structures that can lead to collapses, mechanical failures, and many other problems, the process has been studied in great detail by scientists. Those researchers have found that microbes are responsible for the process in the vast majority of cases. They have also discovered ways to identify and eliminate the problem with relative ease. Since sulfate reduction can be highly destructive if it continues unchecked, everyone who works in an industry that can have problems with it should strive to understand both the process and the solutions.

What Causes Sulfate Reduction?

Sulfate-reducing bacteria are the usual cause of sulfate reduction. They perform the reaction as part of their normal metabolic process, in the same way that humans use oxygen. There are many different species that fall within that group, and while they share the same general metabolic pathways, the details often differ from one species to the next. That means that different species can cause damage to different materials, and that they thrive in slightly different environments. These bacteria do have a few positive uses, but they are generally pests that need to be eliminated to make sure that they do not cause any damage to machines and infrastructure.

The Sulfate Reduction Process

Sulfate reduction is a fairly normal redox reaction, in which a substance is oxidized, which involves losing elections, so that another can gain those electrons in a process known as reduction. There are several different sulfate reduction reactions, but most them involve reducing a sulfate molecule to create hydrogen sulfide. Molecular hydrogen is one of the most commonly oxidized substances in this reaction, but many organic compounds can take its place.

The hydrogen sulfide molecules that this process creates is responsible for corrosion. It’s a fairly weak acid, but it can react with most metals to create new sulfides. It can also be dangerous to humans, since hydrogen sulfide is poisonous and somewhat flammable.

Fixing the Problem

Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to deal with sulfate reduction activity. Any damaged metal items will need to be replaced after the treatment, so it’s best to deal with the problem as fast as possible in order to prevent damage. The process begins by taking a sample from the area where activity is suspected, and sending it to a lab to identify the bacteria. If any are present, they should be eliminated by treatment with a biocide. The compound will kill any bacteria that are in the area, which should solve the problem. It’s best to send another sample to the lab after the treatment, just to make sure that it was successful. If it was not, the process can be repeated with a new biocide until the problem is solved.