Tiny red crystals that dramatically increase biogas production could reduce need for new coal seam wells—16 February 2016

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), supported by an ARC Linkage Projects grant and with industry partner, Biogas Energy, have discovered a way to produce a tenfold increase in the amount of methane gas emitted by naturally-occurring microbes living in coal seams and on food waste. The innovation could benefit the environment by extending the lifespan of coal seam gas wells, as well as improving the economics of using woody crops and left-over food as commercial sources of biogas. The technique involves the addition of small amounts of a synthetic dye that forms previously unobserved needle-like crystals to help the methane-producing microbes grow faster. “It’s simple. If the microbes grow faster, they fart more methane,” said UNSW Associate Professor Mike Manefield. “Biogas emitted by microbes will be vital for meeting the world’s future energy needs and helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of other fossil fuels. Our research in the lab and in coal boreholes near Lithgow has shown that the crystals can lead to a massive leap in methane production—a tenfold increase from coal, and an 18-fold increase from food waste.”

Media issued by The University of New South Wales.

Image: Crystals of neutral red.
Image courtesy: UNSW.

Original Published Date: 
Tuesday, February 16, 2016