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.
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.
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.
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.