We are enhancing gas production using cultured indigenous microbes which are active in coal seam gas reservoirs and produce secondary biogenic methane.

The challenge

Enhancing gas production

Coal seam gas (CSG) is becoming a widely used energy source, particularly in eastern Australia where a number of basins have been found to produce significant volumes of methane gas from coal seams.

Coal seam gas microbes - inspecting coal

CSG is cleaner than other fossil fuels and already accounts for over 40 per cent of Queensland’s natural gas consumption. Many of the high-methane production zones are confined to regions of microbial gas generation. Research shows that microbial activity enhances the gas saturation levels of the coal, with areas in the Sydney Basin of Eastern Australia showing considerably higher production rates of CSG in coal which contains secondary biogenic gas compared to areas containing only thermogenic gas.

Our response

Forming a specialist research team

We have created a team of researchers who are conducting laboratory experiments to understand the processes involved and are culturing the microbes to determine the viability of using them to optimise gas generation. The process of biogenic gas formation requires the collective actions of a variety of anaerobic microbes comprising a range of metabolic groups, and other conditions such as temperature, availability of nutrients and appropriate substrates.

These considerations are a key component of the research. A long term field trial will eventually be undertaken where microbes and nutrients will be injected into the reservoir.

The results

Adding value to CSG production

If successful, the benefit for industry of this research will include the development of a technology to increase methane content of CSG reservoirs which could add considerable value to coal seam gas production increase production of this energy source in Australia.

If a coal seam was used for geological storage of CO2, ultimately the technology may enable some conversion of the CO2 to methane, potentially delivering further environmental and economic benefits.

In June 2016, Origin Energy cited microbial enhancement technology as having the potential to add $10-20 million per annum to their business.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Reservoir Rejuvenation Technology (R2T)

[Image of a derrick and text appears: Coal seam gas]

Narrator: Coal seam gas

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plays a major role in the transition to a lower emissions energy future.

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Successful coal seam gas developments in Queensland,

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require the drilling of thousands of wells presenting both challenges and opportunities.

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With the support and infrastructure of several major coal seam gas operators,

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CSIRO is researching ways to increase the gas recovery potential of coal seams by promoting gas generation.

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Coal seam gas is generated over geological time by either thermogenic or biogenic processes underground.

[Camera zooms in on the aquitard layers below the surface of the cutaway and then zooms in on the coal seam and water droplets and arrows appear showing heat moving towards the coal seam and text appears: Aquitard, Coal Seam, Heat, Themogenic Gas]

While thermogenic gas is created by heating the organic matter in rocks,

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biogenic gas is created as a by-product of natural microbial processes acting within the coals and formation water around them.

[Camera zooms in to show the microbes and water droplets moving in the coal seam layer]

It is this biogenic process that CSIRO is developing technologies to accelerate.

[Camera zooms in on ten pink coloured microbes in the coal seam layer and the image shows water droplets and coloured nutrient droplets moving around the microbes]

Biogenic gas generation occurs through the collective action of a community of anaerobic microbes whose composition and activity varies with temperature, nutrient and vitamin availability and the substrate conditions on which they live.

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Laboratory studies by CSIRO and others have shown that by enhancing microbial activity within coal seams it is possible to replenish gas within the reservoirs

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and increase the effective life of the asset.

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CSIRO’s detailed experiments and modelling of biogenic gas generation in coal seams aim to provide a better understanding of the processes and define the optimal conditions and methods for reservoir rejuvenation.

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In its specialist laboratories, CSIRO has developed

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patented processes and methods

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for optimisation and application of nutrient mixes that enhance activity when added to coal.

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This project is known as Reservoir Rejuvenation Technology or R2T, previously known as Microbial Enhancement of Coal Seam Methane.

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In addition, CSIRO’s research into encapsulation technologies are anticipated to ensure effective delivery of reservoir specific nutrient mixtures

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to optimise gas generation.

[Camera zooms out and logos appear beneath the rotating landscape model section of earth: Santos, Australia Pacific LNG, QGC A BG Group business, AGL]

The laboratory research that CSIRO and its industry partners, SANTOS, APLNG, QGC and AGL began in 2008 is nearing completion.

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Through this collaboration and field trial tests, CSIRO aims to demonstrate the effectiveness of R2T

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so that it can be used around the world to address some of the challenges faced by the coal seam gas industry.

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The benefits of Reservoir Rejuvenation Technology include value adding to coal seam gas assets

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by increasing existing gas reserves, extending the life of existing assets

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and achieving greater energy security.

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text appears: Reservoir Rejuvenation Technology (R2T), To find out more visit, www.csiro.au/r2t]

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Reservoir Rejuvenation Technology

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