Microbe power

Microbes turn coal into methane. Methane collected from microbial activity in landfills is purified  and  fed into the natural gas grid.

Scientist have been searching for ways to stimulate microbe activity on coal. The same principle would apply to turning oil into natural gas. So it is no surprise that scientists from Newcastle UK would team up with scientists from Alberta to work on stimulating Microbial activity.


an international team of researchers has found a way for using microbes to extract methane from oil sands. … Field tests of this new technology should start in 2009.


How will the industry benefit from these findings? “The oil sands industry would no longer have to use costly and polluting thermal, or heat-based, processes (such as injecting steam into reservoirs) to loosen the tar-like bitumen so it flows into wells and can be pumped to the surface. ‘The main thing is you’d be recovering a much cleaner fuel,’ says Larter. ‘Methane is, per energy unit, a much lower carbon dioxide emitter than bitumen. Also, you wouldn’t need all the upgrading facilities and piping on the surface.’”     Source.

The naturally occurring microbes convert crude oil into methane in a process that normally takes tens of thousands of years. The researchers were able to get the same result in just two years by feeding fertilizer to the tiny critters….

The bacteria, which have existed underground for hundreds of millions of years, ferment the oil and expel natural gas without requiring oxygen.

Others have tried the approach used by Larter and his colleagues before, seeking to speed up the process by injecting more bacteria. But Larter says the key is giving the microbes their own version of vitamins.

"You’d basically feed them Miracle-Gro or fertilizer to accelerate their growth rate," he said.     Source.

Researchers think they may have figured out how this process works and how to accelerate it to create a vast new energy resource.

"You’re looking at an increase equivalent to the same amount of energy as conventional oil reserves in the world today," says petroleum geologist Steve Larter of the University of Calgary in Canada, a member of the team investigating the microbial process. "It’s potentially a game changer if it can be demonstrated."       Source.

Is this a game changer or is this a mother of all game changers?





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One Response to Microbe power

  1. L. A. says:

    Steam is not a competitive, voracious sounding microbe that can multiply and affect the ecosystem.  It sounds interesting in theory however use of microbes is already taking place.  The use of microbials to clean up oil spills is on the mass market, it was introduced after the Exxon Valdez.  However, there is an old saying two wrongs don\’t make a right.  It needs to be pulled from the market, whether they like it or not.  Solutions need to be found to find out how far this has gone already.  I don\’t think it\’s all Exxon\’s fault that it is on the mass market, but I could be wrong.  Did you happen to see the theory from cable television regarding methane build up in the ocean near the ocean floors?  It was interesting, the salt water will actually hold down the gas for some time, when it stops holding it down then "we" have a massive problem.  "we" means globally.  I think the energy thing has to be rethunk some more, there are viable options in place already above ground.  I get scared and afraid when I think about this, I used to do science projects on the planets and the sun.  A build up of gas could fracture something like the tetonic plates, that\’s what has been indicated elsewhere.  I think we need to rethink the process of "publish or perish" also.  Check with any library system and you will find billions of opinions.  What does that tell you?  Billions of opinions…"we" are racing where?  Oh yeah I know the types that want to be looked after etc….also.  However, "we" don\’t want to end up on Mars do "we"?  Do you think "we" could adjust that rapidly?  What could possibly adjust that rapidly is ironically something like a microbial.  The types of oil eating microbes I heard about are in a dormant state until reactivated.  Maybe there needs to be a different review system, for ideas, theories and proofs.  I keep thinking I can comprehend some scientific realms of thought, they concentrate on their project.  It is there project, it is there work, I give them credit for having an idea "good" or "bad".  So the jackal mentality of the system as it is now might be affecting such things as "energy" consumption, use, and reserves.  Maybe we need to rethink, about a review process.  Those scientist study their science per se, a consortium to indicate impacts.  I don\’t think the publish or perish mentality is a very beneficial one, you can publish all the bs or all the truths and they can all be argued.  Decisions need to be made on such things as energy, some bad decision have already been made that take more than your or my own life times to rectify, I don\’t think you want your children or grandchildren to inherit that….It may keep them occupied, but is that beneficial?

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