Scientists at the U.S Department of Energys Brookhaven National Laboratory are exploring the use of bacteria to increase the recovery of methane, a clean natural gas, from coal beds, and to decontaminate water produced during the methane-recovery process.
Methane gas, which burns without releasing sulfur contaminants, is becoming increasingly important as a natural gas fuel in the U.S. But the process of recovering methane, which is often trapped within porous, unrecovered or waste coal, produces large amounts of water contaminated with salts, organic compounds, metals, and naturally occurring radioactive elements. "Our idea is to use specially developed bacteria to remove the contaminants from the wastewater, and also help to release the trapped methane," says Brookhaven chemist Mow Lin.
Lins team has developed several strains of bacteria that can use coal as a nutrient and adsorb or degrade contaminants. They started with natural strains already adapted to extreme conditions, such as the presence of metals or high salinity, then gradually altered the nutrient mix and contaminant levels and selected the most hardy bugs (for more, see: http://www.bnl.gov/bnlweb/pubaf/pr/2001/bnlpr121101.htm).
Karen McNulty Walsh | EurekAlert!
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