Startups Make Natural Gas Using Coal-Eating Creatures
Several startups are looking into making natural gas using microbes that feed on coal.
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In the future, the natural gas that heats houses, powers factories and fuels greener buses could come from microscopic coal-eating organisms. Several startups have made significant progress in growing microbes that feed on coal and produce methane, the main component of natural gas, Technology Review reported.
As a source of electricity, natural gas is less polluting and produces less carbon dioxide than coal and oil. In addition, microbes could produce natural gas from coal that's too expensive to mine, Technology Review reported.
Some microbe-nourishing startups have been able to "get pretty good recovery of natural gas at pretty good cost," Julio Friedmann, chief energy technologist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, told Technology Review. That means the technology may be competitive enough to show up in the energy market in the future, he said.
Scientists realized they could use microorganisms to make natural gas after discovering that microscopic creatures actually make much of the gas that naturally occurs near coal seams. At least one startup, Colorado-based Luca Technologies, is now trying to get the microbes already living on coal to produce more methane by feeding the creatures with the right nutrients. Another startup, Next Fuel from Wyoming, is trying to add coal-eating microbes to coal seams that don't have them.
Source: Technology Review