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Making CBM renewable

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World Coal,

CSIRO scientists are investigating the possibility of producing commercially-viable quantities of coalbed methane (CBM) by injecting a mix of bacteria and carbon dioxide into coal seams.

According to Rick Wilkinson, Chief Technical Officer at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), there are two types of CBM: biogenic and thermogenic. Thermogenic gas is produced by chemical reactions deep underground. In contrast, biogenic gas occurs as a product of microorganisms that produce methane as they grow and live.

“Most, but not all [CBM] is thermogenic,” explained Wilkinson in a recent post to APPEA’s The Tech Drill blog. “Researchers are now interested in the nature of biogenic [CBM] and how it can be enhanced. The challenge is to find a way to encourage the microbes to produce more methane or natural gas to either replace gas reserves that have been used or to supplement existing reserves.”

Which is where the CSIRO researchers come in. The research institute is currently developing a programme on microbial enhancement of coal seam gas production aimed at enhancing the production of [CBM] by increasing and stimulating natural microbial activity.

“The trick is to find and supply nutrients to the right microbes, which occur naturally in the environment, to produce methane,” concluded Wilkinson. “The results could be an important new source of renewable energy.”

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