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Bacteria from Siberian soda lake makes gas without CO2

Bacteria from Siberian soda lake makes gas without CO2

Sorokin at work in Siberia. ‘The white stuff is not snow – it is called trona, a mineral consisting from two forms of soda – NaHCO3 and Na2CO3.

Researchers from Delft and Moscow have discovered a new class of micro organisms in Siberian soda. These organisms grow in saturated soda and convert organic materials into methane gas.

Together with colleagues from US, UK, Germany and Spain, they have published their findings in Nature Microbiology.

Biogas

In the future, these newly discovered organisms could also play a role in the production of methane from organic waste. The big advantage is that, at the high pH, CO2 remains in the solution. Therefore, methane gas is produced, instead of biogas (which contains CO2). Currently, biogas still has to be upgraded to natural gas quality, suitable for utilization it in gas networks. This upgrading process costs a lot of energy.
New class

Dimitry Sorokin: ‘Over the last few years, the so called methyl-reducing pathway of methane production became one of the major themes in this research field. This hybrid pathway was found in several methanogens (methane producing micro-organisms). In this pathway, only the last of the classical seven steps is present. It has already been discovered a long time ago in two methanogens but was considered an inconsequential curiosity. Now it has become clear that it is at least as prominent as the other classical pathways.’
‘So far however, only a single organism executing this pathway has been isolated and characterized in pure culture. We have now identified methyl-reducers in hypersaline lakes that appear to represent a new class of archaea. These methanogens are extreme halo(alkali)philes and moderate thermophiles’, says Sorokin.

This discovery provides new insights into the evolution of life on earth and in the extreme conditions under which microorganisms can grow, one of the researchers said in a press release.

Soda

In future, these newly discovered organisms, according to scientists, could also play a role in the production of methane from organic waste.

The major advantage is that the high pH value keeps the CO2 in the solution. The produced gas is not containing any CO2. Nowadays biogas needs to be processed before it has the same quality as natural gas and suitable for use in gas networks. This process takes a lot of energy.

Link to the publication in Nature

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