Coal-eating Microbes Produce Methane Gas
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Coal-eating Microbes Produce Methane Gas

Scientists discover Coal-eating Microbes Produce Methane Gas. Luca Technologies and Chris Energy scientific researchers have combined research forces and started using a microbe-friendly formula in gas wells drilled into coal deposits many years ago.

New scientific research has led to two energy companies, Luca Technologies and Chris Energy to place huge bets on  the future of the U.S. natural gas industry.  The companies are gambling that persuading microscopic bugs to devour old coal deposits is the future in re-work of low-producing or old natural gas wells is the future. The research encourages the insertion of a certain microbe-friendly formula so that coal-eating microbes will produce marketable methane gas. The companies believe that the microbes will “treat old coal deposits like all-you-can eat buffets,” according to a recent AP article reported USA Today, April 10, 2011.

Coal contains naturally occurring microbes

Researchers have found that Coal is full of minute naturally occurring microbes that consume the hard fossil fuel and break it down, producing methane gas. The two companies, on a large scale in energy-rich places like Wyoming, want to take advantage of this naturally occurring phenomenon to create vast amounts of natural gas so the gas is available for extraction by the nation's energy companies.

“Once you figure out the recipe that feeds the bugs and gets them reactivated, it’s pretty simple,” says Bob Cavnar, chief executive of Luca Technologies.

Microbe-friendly spiking of old gas wells

Luca and Chris Energy have combined research forces and started using a microbe-friendly formula in old gas wells drilled into coal deposits.  By injecting, or spiking the wells with substances including glycerol, magnesium, calcium, and phosphate.  These compounds will encourage the micro-organisms to reproduce, feed and release the methane gas. The companies  hope to get old and nearly tapped-out coal-bed methane wells to substantially increase gas production levels.  Remember, cows feed, then eject methane also.  University of Wyoming researcher Michael Urynowicz,  has substantially studied the use of microbes to turn coal into methane. He believes the process works on a much smaller scale. “The question is, at the field scale, how economically viable will it be?” he says.

Opponents concerned with groundwater contamination

Many concerned opponents worry it will contaminate the groundwater supplying more than 6,000 homes in the Wyoming test area. What Luca and Chris calls “nutrients,” Jill Morrison of the Powder River Basin Resource Council labels “chemicals.” The test case is happening during a natural gas boom that resulted in several companies over several states just beginning to tap into vast gas deposits only recently being recognized for their enormous potential. The recent find and resultant discovery wells could impact the US’s energy needs in a positive way for years.

“They make it sound like it’s yogurt and granola or something. It’s not,” Morrison said. “I’m not saying that maybe this technology doesn’t have some promise at some point. But I don’t think we’re there, and we don’t know enough about it.” Some valid points considering the world-wide water concerns.

Only time and economic results will tell if this discovery is a solid way to quickly reduce our foreign-oil dependency. Let's hope OPEC is worried.

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Comments (1)

Nice article.