Feasibility of atmospheric methane removal using methanotrophic biotrickling filters

Appl Microbiol Biotechnol. 2009 Jul;83(5):949-56. doi: 10.1007/s00253-009-1977-9. Epub 2009 Apr 8.


Methane is a potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential ~23 times that of carbon dioxide. Here, we describe the modeling of a biotrickling filtration system composed of methane-consuming bacteria, i.e., methanotrophs, to assess the utility of these systems in removing methane from the atmosphere. Model results indicate that assuming the global average atmospheric concentration of methane, 1.7 ppmv, methane removal is ineffective using these methanotrophic biofilters as the methane concentration is too low to enable cell survival. If the concentration is increased to 500-6,000 ppmv, however, similar to that found above landfills and in concentrated animal feeding operations (factory farms), 4.98-35.7 tons of methane can be removed per biofilter per year assuming biotrickling filters of typical size (3.66 m in diameter and 11.5 m in height). Using reported ranges of capital, operational, and maintenance costs, the cost of the equivalent ton of CO(2) removal using these systems is $90-$910 ($2,070-$20,900 per ton of methane), depending on the influent concentration of methane and if heating is required. The use of methanotrophic biofilters for controlling methane emissions is technically feasible and, provided that either the costs of biofilter construction and operation are reduced or the value of CO(2) credits is increased, can also be economically attractive.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollutants / metabolism*
  • Autotrophic Processes
  • Biodegradation, Environmental
  • Carbon Dioxide / metabolism
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / economics
  • Environmental Restoration and Remediation / methods*
  • Methane / metabolism*
  • Methylosinus trichosporium / metabolism*
  • Micropore Filters / microbiology*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Carbon Dioxide
  • Methane