Kinetics of urease mediated calcite precipitation and permeability reduction of porous media evidenced by magnetic resonance imaging

Stephanie Handley-Sidhu, E. Sham, Mark Cuthbert, S. Nougarol, M. Mantle, M. L. Johns, L. E. Macaskie, J. C. Renshaw, Mark Cuthbert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


The enzyme urease drives the hydrolysis of urea leading to the release of ammonium ions and bicarbonate; in the presence of calcium, the rise in pH leads to increased calcium carbonate saturation and the subsequent precipitation of calcite. Although such alkalinizing ureolysis is widespread in nature, most studies have focussed on bacteria (i.e. indigenous communities or urease-active Sporosarcina pasteurii) for calcite precipitation technologies. In this study, urease-active jack bean meal (from the legume Canavalia ensiformis) was used to drive calcite precipitation. The rates of ureolysis (k urea), determined from measured NH4 +, enabled a direct comparison to microbial ureolysis rates reported in literature. It is also demonstrated that a simple single reaction model approach can simulate calcite precipitation very effectively (3-6 % normalised root-mean-square deviation). To investigate the reduction of permeability in porous media, jack bean meal (0.5 g L-1) and solutions (400 mM urea and CaCl2) were simultaneously pumped into a borosilicate bead column. One-dimensional magnetic resonance profiling techniques were used, non-invasively, for the first time to quantify the porosity changes following calcite precipitation. In addition, two-dimensional slice selective magnetic resonance images (resolution of ~0.5 × 1.0 mm) revealed that the exact location of calcite deposition was within the first 10 mm of the column. Column sacrifice and acid digestion also confirmed that 91.5 % of calcite was located within the first 14 mm of the column. These results have important implications for the design of future calcite precipitation technologies and present a possible alternative to the well known bacterial approaches.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)881-890
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Science and Technology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Canavalia ensiformis
  • Jack bean meal
  • Urease
  • Ureolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Engineering
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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