PloS one

Extracellular Electron Transfer Is a Bottleneck in the Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion of C1018 Carbon Steel by the Biofilm of Sulfate-Reducing Bacterium Desulfovibrio vulgaris.

PMID 26308855


Carbon steels are widely used in the oil and gas industry from downhole tubing to transport trunk lines. Microbes form biofilms, some of which cause the so-called microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) of carbon steels. MIC by sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) is often a leading cause in MIC failures. Electrogenic SRB sessile cells harvest extracellular electrons from elemental iron oxidation for energy production in their metabolism. A previous study suggested that electron mediators riboflavin and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) both accelerated the MIC of 304 stainless steel by the Desulfovibrio vulgaris biofilm that is a corrosive SRB biofilm. Compared with stainless steels, carbon steels are usually far more prone to SRB attacks because SRB biofilms form much denser biofilms on carbon steel surfaces with a sessile cell density that is two orders of magnitude higher. In this work, C1018 carbon steel coupons were used in tests of MIC by D. vulgaris with and without an electron mediator. Experimental weight loss and pit depth data conclusively confirmed that both riboflavin and FAD were able to accelerate D. vulgaris attack against the carbon steel considerably. It has important implications in MIC failure analysis and MIC mitigation in the oil and gas industry.