Australian gas-generating microbe to help power India

A recent research breakthrough that promises to dramatically increase gas yields from coal seams and biogas plants will be trialled for industrial application for the first time in partnership with India’s largest oil and gas producer, Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC). By adding a common synthetic dye, microbiologists at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) have demonstrated a ten-fold increase in the volume of methane generated by microbes in coal seams, and even larger gains in biogas derived from agricultural and food waste.

The UNSW team and India’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) will work together to develop the industrial application of the phenomenon in coal seam gas wells operated by India’s state-owned ONGC, the country’s dominant oil and gas explorer and producer. UNSW’s researchers have already replicated the extraordinary gains in gas volumes outside the laboratory, in tests in coal seams west of Sydney.

However, the Indian trials will enable a battery of industrial-scale tests factoring in critical variables such as coal seam pressure and temperature, as well as enabling the development of new technologies to precisely introduce the dye.

By using the UNSW synthetic dye process, these currently unviable soft coal deposits may be more commercially attractive for coal seam gas development. The Indian-based project is also expected to deliver new fundamental knowledge about how methane-producing microbes work.

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