Big Development in Methane Market: Researchers discover a Novel Microbe with the ability to Convert Oil into Methane

Posted On January 04, 2022     

Oil can be converted to natural gas, or methane, by microorganisms. Until recently, it was considered that this transformation could only be accomplished through the cooperation of other creatures. Finally, scientists have successfully cultivated an archaeon capable of converting oil to methane. Their research would significantly contribute to the Methane Market as it explains how the bacterium undergoes the metamorphosis and how it loves to consume large chunks of food.

Researchers used "Methanoliparia" for the present study. This "miracle microbe" converts oil to CH4 (Methane) and CO2 (Carbon Dioxide). It is a hybrid species that combines the properties of an oil degrader with those of a methanogen, i.e., a methane producer," the report explains.

After successfully cultivating these microorganisms in the laboratory, the researchers investigated the underlying processes in greater depth. They discovered that Methanoliparia has remarkable capabilities due to its genetic make-up. It consists of blueprints for enzymes that can activate and decompose various hydrocarbons in their DNA. In addition, it comes with a complete methane producer's gear kit.

The researchers fed the microbes different types of foods. Further, they employed numerous methods to observe how Methanoliparia dealt with it in their laboratory cultures. This archaeon activated all the various hydrocarbons with the same enzyme, which was the most surprising aspect of the study. Only archaea that thrive on short-chain hydrocarbons like ethane or butane have been cultivated so far. Heavy oil, on the other hand, with its long-chain compounds, are preferred by Methanoliparia.

The study also utilized methanogenic microbes that consume long-chain hydrocarbons directly. The team was unaware of their existence before now. Generally, hydrocarbons shaped in ring-like or aromatic structures aren't bulky for Methanoliparia. However, this is only true when they're bound to at least one long carbon chain. This means that, in addition to the team's other exciting results, they've discovered an unknown pathway of methanogenesis. Amazingly, it can be detected everywhere, from the oil tank to the deep sea.

The Methanoliparia cells used in this study come from the Shengli oil field in China. It is known as the country's significant oil reserve. In contrast, genetic analysis demonstrates that these microbes are distributed all across the earth, even to the deep sea.

The team's findings provide an entirely new perspective on oil extraction in subsurface oil reservoirs. The widespread presence of these organisms and the potential for scalable applications will make this an exciting field of research in the coming years.

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