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Title: Solute concentrations influence microbial methanogenesis in coal-bearing strata of the Cherokee basin, USA

In this study, microorganisms have contributed significantly to subsurface energy resources by converting organic matter in hydrocarbon reservoirs into methane, the main component of natural gas. In this study, we consider environmental controls on microbial populations in coal-bearing strata of the Cherokee basin, an unconventional natural gas resource in southeast Kansas, USA. Pennsylvanian-age strata in the basin contain numerous thin (0.4–1.1 m) coalbeds with marginal thermal maturities (0.5–0.7% Ro) that are interbedded with shale and sandstone. We collected gas, water, and microbe samples from 16 commercial coalbed methane wells for geochemical and microbiological analysis. The water samples were Na–Cl type with total dissolved solids (TDS) content ranging from 34.9 to 91.3 g L–1. Gas dryness values [C1/(C2 + C3)] averaged 2640 and carbon and hydrogen isotope ratios of methane differed from those of carbon dioxide and water, respectively, by an average of 65 and 183‰. These values are thought to be consistent with gas that formed primarily by hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis. Results from cultivation assays and taxonomic analysis of 16S rRNA genes agree with the geochemical results. Cultivable methanogens were present in every sample tested, methanogen sequences dominate the archaeal community in each sample (avg 91%), and few archaeal sequences (avgmore » 4.2%) were classified within Methanosarcinales, an order of methanogens known to contain methylotrophic methanogens. Although hydrogenotrophs appear dominant, geochemical and microbial analyses both indicate that the proportion of methane generated by acetoclastic methanogens increases with the solute content of formation water, a trend that is contrary to existing conceptual models. Consistent with this trend, beta diversity analyses show that archaeal diversity significantly correlates with formation water solute content. In contrast, bacterial diversity more strongly correlates with location than solute content, possibly as a result of spatial variation in the thermal maturity of the coalbeds.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [1] ;  [2] ;  [3]
  1. Kansas State Univ., Manhattan, KS (United States)
  2. Univ. of North Carolina at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC (United States)
  3. Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Grant/Contract Number:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Frontiers in Microbiology
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 6; Journal ID: ISSN 1664-302X
Frontiers Research Foundation
Research Org:
Argonne National Lab. (ANL), Argonne, IL (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Biological and Environmental Research (BER) (SC-23)
Country of Publication:
United States
58 GEOSCIENCES; 03 NATURAL GAS; 59 BASIC BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES Cherokee basin; acetoclastic methanogenesis; coal biodegradation; hydrogenotrophic methanogenesis; natural gas; unconventional reservoir