Forum für Wissenschaft, Industrie und Wirtschaft

Hauptsponsoren:     3M 
Datenbankrecherche:

 

DNA Analysis of Microbes in a Fracking Site Yields Surprises

04.12.2012
Researchers have made a genetic analysis of the microbes living deep inside a deposit of Marcellus Shale at a hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” site, and uncovered some surprises.

They expected to find many tough microbes suited to extreme environments, such as those that derive from archaea, a domain of single-celled species sometimes found in high-salt environments, volcanoes, or hot springs. Instead, they found very few genetic biomarkers for archaea, and many more for species that derive from bacteria.

They also found that the populations of microbes changed dramatically over a short period of time, as some species perished during the fracking operation and others became more abundant. One—an as-yet-unidentified bacterium—actually prospered, and eventually made up 90 percent of the microbial population in fluids taken from the fracked well.

Researchers may never know the exact species of bacteria in the fluids because of the difficulty in replicating the subsurface conditions in the laboratory, and the challenges associated with culturing unknown microbes from such environments, explained Paula Mouser, assistant professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.

“There are millions of microbes that we can detect using biomarkers, but haven’t ever isolated or cultured from these environments before. Most are grouped into loose associations based on shared genetic characteristics—something akin to a human extended family,” Mouser said.

“Probably, the best we’ll be able to do is identify their microbial ‘cousins.’”

The study tracked the microbe species found in the water pumped out of a typical fracking site over a period of months during its normal operation. The rock at the site was a type of shale known as Marcellus, named for the city in New York where it was first identified.

To Mouser, the real value of the study is the new knowledge it offers on how microbes in fracking fluids compete and survive when the fluids are injected to the deep subsurface, as certain microbes could prove detrimental to oil and gas quality, or compromise well integrity.

She presented her team’s initial findings at the American Geophysical Union meeting this week.

“This kind of research is important, because everything we learn about subsurface microorganisms helps us understand ecology on Earth’s surface,” she said. “When water samples like this are shared, there is the potential for great discovery—this knowledge could open doors to new technology for improving gas extraction efficiency or for treating flowback fluids from these sites.”

Because of the large cost for drilling and fracking one well—usually, millions of dollars—individual researchers must team together with industry for access to samples.

In fact, companies do not normally share the contents of their “flowback” fluids—the mix of water, oil, and gas that emerges from an active well—because they could reveal the proprietary mix of chemicals that the company is using to aid extraction.

The Ohio State study was able to take place only through a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) in Pittsburgh. NETL is working with industry to study fracking technologies and provided Mouser’s team with water samples donated by an unnamed shale gas operation.

When it comes to energy extraction, tiny microbes play a huge role, Mouser said.

As it happens, the chemicals that companies pump into the ground along with water to help fracture shale and release petroleum contain carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous—in chemical formulations that microbes like to eat. So, left unchecked, the microbes in a fracking well can grow and reproduce out of control—so much so, that they may clog the fractures and block extraction, or foul the gas and oil with their waste, which contains sulfur.

This is no news to oil companies, Mouser added. They’ve long known about the microbes, and add biocides to the water to control the population. What isn’t known: exactly what kinds of microbes live there, and what altering their populations does to the environment.

“Our goal is really to understand the physiology of the microbes and their biogeochemical role in the environment, to examine how industry practices influence subsurface microbial life and water quality,” Mouser said.

Maryam Ansari, a master’s student in environmental sciences at Ohio State, sequenced the microbes’ DNA, and separated them into taxa, or taxonomic units—groups that could be thought of as microbial “cousins.”

Of the 40 taxa the researchers identified from water samples taken at the start of the fracking operation, only six survived the first few weeks. Almost all of the bacteria at the site were classified as “halo-tolerant,” similar to bacteria that live in deep saltwater environments.

The study is just beginning, and Mouser hopes that as they learn more, the researchers will be able to pin down how the microbes metabolize fracking fluids.

Ultimately, they hope to meld those discoveries with a computer model that can predict fluid movement from shale formations to groundwater aquifers. The model would provide tools for commercial companies to assess the safety of possible fracking sites.

In the meantime, Mouser is very interested in teaming with other industry partners to also look at microbial dynamics in a different kind of rock: Ohio’s Utica Shale.

Ohio State’s Subsurface Energy Resource Center funded the genomic analyses, which were done at the university’s Plant Microbe Genetics Facility. These early findings have earned Mouser a new grant from the National Science Foundation so that she can pursue the work further.

Contact: Paula Mouser, (614) 247-4429; Mouser.19@osu.edu

Written by Pam Frost Gorder, (614) 292-9475; Gorder.1@osu.edu

Editor’s note: to reach Mouser during the American Geophysical Union meeting, contact Pam Frost Gorder.

Pam Frost Gorder | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.osu.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Chains of nanogold – forged with atomic precision
23.09.2016 | Suomen Akatemia (Academy of Finland)

nachricht Self-assembled nanostructures hit their target
23.09.2016 | King Abdullah University of Science and Technology

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Synthese-chemischer Meilenstein: Neues Ferrocenium-Molekül entdeckt

Wissenschaftler der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) haben zusammen mit Kollegen der Freien Universität Berlin ein neues Molekül entdeckt: Die Eisenverbindung in der seltenen Oxidationsstufe +4 gehört zu den Ferrocenen und ist äußerst schwierig zu synthetisieren.

Metallocene werden umgangssprachlich auch als Sandwichverbindungen bezeichnet. Sie bestehen aus zwei organischen ringförmigen Verbindungen, den...

Im Focus: Neue Entwicklungen in der Asphären-Messtechnik

Kompetenzzentrum Ultrapräzise Oberflächenbearbeitung (CC UPOB) lädt zum Expertentreffen im März 2017 ein

Ob in Weltraumteleskopen, deren Optiken trotz großer Abmessungen nanometergenau gefertigt sein müssen, in Handykameras oder in Endoskopen − Asphären kommen in...

Im Focus: Mit OLED Mikrodisplays in Datenbrillen zur verbesserten Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion

Das Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP arbeitet seit Jahren an verschiedenen Entwicklungen zu OLED-Mikrodisplays, die auf organischen Halbleitern basieren. Durch die Integration einer Bildsensorfunktion direkt im Mikrodisplay, lässt sich u.a. die Augenbewegung in Datenbrillen aufnehmen und zur Steuerung von Display-Inhalten nutzen. Das verbesserte Konzept wird erstmals auf der Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE), vom 18. – 19. Oktober 2016, in Berlin, Stand B25 vorgestellt.

„Augmented Reality“ (erweiterte Realität) und „Wearable Displays“ (tragbare Displays) sind Schlagworte, denen man mittlerweile fast täglich begegnet. Beide...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Künstliche Intelligenz ermöglicht die Entdeckung neuer Materialien

Mit Methoden der künstlichen Intelligenz haben Chemiker der Universität Basel die Eigenschaften von rund 2 Millionen Kristallen berechnet, die aus vier verschiedenen chemischen Elementen zusammengesetzt sind. Dabei konnten die Forscher 90 bisher unbekannte Kristalle identifizieren, die thermodynamisch stabil sind und als neuartige Werkstoffe in Betracht kommen. Das berichten sie in der Fachzeitschrift «Physical Review Letters».

Elpasolith ist ein glasiges, transparentes, glänzendes und weiches Mineral mit kubischer Kristallstruktur. Erstmals entdeckt im El Paso County (USA), kann man...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

IHR
JOB & KARRIERE
SERVICE
im innovations-report
in Kooperation mit academics
Veranstaltungen

Einsteins Geburtsstadt wird für eine Woche Hauptstadt der Physik

23.09.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Industrie und Wissenschaft diskutieren künftigen Mobilfunk-Standard 5G auf Tagung in Kassel

23.09.2016 | Veranstaltungen

Fachgespräch Feste Biomasse diskutiert Fragen zum Thema "Qualitätshackschnitzel"

23.09.2016 | Veranstaltungen

 
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

Das Korallenthermometer muss neu justiert werden

23.09.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Doppel-Infektion macht Erreger aggressiver

23.09.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Synthese-chemischer Meilenstein: Neues Ferrocenium-Molekül entdeckt

23.09.2016 | Biowissenschaften Chemie