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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.

Microbes attached to coal surface.

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

[An arrow appears pointing from the left to the right of the screen and text appears inside: Lower emissions]

[A world globe with the word “emissions” rotating around it appears above the arrow]

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

[Camera zooms in on the world globe and then zooms in on Australia and then zooms in again on the state of Queensland and text appears: Queensland]

Successful coal seam gas developments in Queensland,

[Image shows pinpoint dots over the state of Queensland]

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

[Image changes to show the CSIRO logo above five derricks]

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

[The CSIRO logo morphs into two circles and a clock and a gauge appear inside and text appears either side of the circles: Recovery, Generation]

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

[Image changes to show an animation image of a cutaway section of the earth showing layers of rock below the surface and the camera zooms out and the image rotates in a clockwise direction]

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,

[Image changes to show the aquitard and coal seam layers and microbes and water droplets are shown in the coal seam layer and text appears: Aquitard, Coal Seam, Microbes, Biogenic Gas]

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.

[Image rotates in a clockwise direction and then the image shows many more nutrient and water droplets moving over the microbes]

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

[Camera zooms out to show the coal seam in the model again]

and increase the effective life of the asset.

[Camera zooms out again to show the whole of the model section of earth and the image rotates in a clockwise direction]

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.

[Image changes to show a male working in a laboratory and then the camera zooms in on the male’s face and then on the machine he is working on]

In its specialist laboratories, CSIRO has developed

[Image changes to show liquid being drawn up into a syringe and then the camera zooms out to show the male’s hands holding the syringe]

patented processes and methods

[Image changes to show a female operating a machine in a laboratory and then images move through of the machine, the female working on a computer, the computer screen display and two males looking at a rock sample]

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

[Camera pans along the rock sample and then the image changes to show the CSIRO logo and text appears: Reservoir Rejuvenation Technology (R2T), Microbial Enhancement of Coal Seam Methane (MECSM)]

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

[Image changes displaying an animation model showing an aerial view of a blue capsule landing inside a fenced off area containing a gas tank and other equipment and then the image rotates in a clockwise direction]

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

[Camera zooms out to show the fenced off area inside a landscape model section of earth and the earth rotates in a clockwise direction]

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.

[The rotating landscape image morphs into the CSIRO logo and the partner logos morph into four rotating landscape sections of earth]

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

[The CSIRO logo morphs into a world globe and then the camera zooms in on the world globe]

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

[The image of the world globe morphs into a circle with text inside: R2T]

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

[The circle morphs into a pie graph displaying reserves and a bar graph appears on the right-hand side displaying the life span and text appears beneath: Reserves, Life Span]

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

[The bar graph and the pie graph morph into an outline image of Australia and a tick appears in the centre of the image]

and achieving greater energy security.

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

[Music plays and CSIRO logo and text appears: Big ideas start here,]

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