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?