‘Coal-eating’ bugs may solve energy crisis

Various technical topics related to science, energy, climate change and coal & gas.

‘Coal-eating’ bugs may solve energy crisis

Postby hvpa941 » Mon Jun 29, 2009 9:32 pm

The Oil Drum links to an article in Times Online which discusses implications of this discovery:
Craig Venter, the controversial American scientist who helped decode the human genome, has announced the discovery of ancient bacteria that can turn coal into methane, suggesting they may help to solve the world’s energy crisis.

The bugs, discovered a mile underground by one of Venter’s microbial prospecting teams, are said to have unique enzymes that can break down coal. Venter said he was already working with BP on how to exploit the find.

Even more interesting is that Venter regards CO2 as an important raw material rather then waste:
Venter also described separate research that, he said, could one day lead to CO2 being seen as a resource in the manufacture of biofuels.

He described how researchers at Synthetic Genomics, the firm he founded, had genetically engineered an algal species to produce large amounts of lipids — liquid fats that can be used to make biofuels.

All the cells needed was sunlight, a growing medium and CO2. They would then pump out lipids that would float to the top of the container, where they could be skimmed off.

He said: “We see CO2 as raw material. We have been engineering cells to use CO2 driven by sunlight to make biopolymers, methane and sugars.
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