Influence of Anaerobic Degradation of Organic Matter on the Rheological Properties of Cohesive Mud from Different European Ports

More Info


The presence of clay-organic flocs in cohesive mud results in a complex rheological behavior of mud, including viscoelasticity, shear-thinning, thixotropy and two-step yielding. In this study, the effect of microbial degradation of organic matter on the rheological properties of mud samples, collected from different ports, was examined. The mud samples were collected from five different European ports (Port of Antwerp (PoA), Port of Bremerhaven (PoB), Port of Emden (PoE), Port of Hamburg (PoH) and Port of Rotterdam (PoR)), displaying varying sediment properties. The rheological analysis of fresh and degraded mud samples was performed with the help of several tests, including stress ramp-up tests, amplitude sweep tests, frequency sweep tests, time-dependent tests and structural recovery tests. The results showed: (i) a significant decrease in yield stresses and complex modulus after organic matter degradation for mud samples from PoA, PoH and PoR, (ii) a negligible change in rheological properties (yield stresses, crossover amplitude and complex modulus) for mud samples from PoB, and (iii) a significant increase in rheological properties for mud samples from PoE. For time-dependent tests, mud samples from PoB showed a substantial increase in hysteresis (~50% mean value) as compared to the changes in yield stresses and crossover amplitude. The analysis of gas production during degradation of organic matter showed a (i) significant release of carbon per g dry matter for mud samples from PoA, PoH and PoR, (ii) lower carbon release per g dry matter for mud samples from PoB, and (iii) a negligible carbon release per g dry matter for mud samples from PoE, which corresponded well with the change in rheological properties.