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 Are there sustainable solutions in dealing with dwindling phosphorus resources?
16.10.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Nutzierbiologie (FBN)

nachricht Strange undertakings: ant queens bury dead to prevent disease
13.10.2017 | Institute of Science and Technology Austria

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Smarte Sensoren für effiziente Prozesse

Materialfehler im Endprodukt können in vielen Industriebereichen zu frühzeitigem Versagen führen und den sicheren Gebrauch der Erzeugnisse massiv beeinträchtigen. Eine Schlüsselrolle im Rahmen der Qualitätssicherung kommt daher intelligenten, zerstörungsfreien Sensorsystemen zu, die es erlauben, Bauteile schnell und kostengünstig zu prüfen, ohne das Material selbst zu beschädigen oder die Oberfläche zu verändern. Experten des Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken präsentieren vom 7. bis 10. November 2017 auf der Blechexpo in Stuttgart zwei Exponate, die eine schnelle, zuverlässige und automatisierte Materialcharakterisierung und Fehlerbestimmung ermöglichen (Halle 5, Stand 5306).

Bei Verwendung zeitaufwändiger zerstörender Prüfverfahren zieht die Qualitätsprüfung durch die Beschädigung oder Zerstörung der Produkte enorme Kosten nach...

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Kalte Moleküle auf Kollisionskurs

Mit einer neuen Kühlmethode gelingt Wissenschaftlern am MPQ die Beobachtung von Stößen in einem dichten Strahl aus kalten und langsamen dipolaren Molekülen.

Wie verlaufen chemische Reaktionen bei extrem tiefen Temperaturen? Um diese Frage zu beantworten, benötigt man molekulare Proben, die gleichzeitig kalt, dicht...

Im Focus: Astronomen entdecken ungewöhnliche spindelförmige Galaxien

Galaxien als majestätische, rotierende Sternscheiben? Nicht bei den spindelförmigen Galaxien, die von Athanasia Tsatsi (Max-Planck-Institut für Astronomie) und ihren Kollegen untersucht wurden. Mit Hilfe der CALIFA-Umfrage fanden die Astronomen heraus, dass diese schlanken Galaxien, die sich um ihre Längsachse drehen, weitaus häufiger sind als bisher angenommen. Mit den neuen Daten konnten die Astronomen außerdem ein Modell dafür entwickeln, wie die spindelförmigen Galaxien aus einer speziellen Art von Verschmelzung zweier Spiralgalaxien entstehen. Die Ergebnisse wurden in der Zeitschrift Astronomy & Astrophysics veröffentlicht.

Wenn die meisten Menschen an Galaxien denken, dürften sie an majestätische Spiralgalaxien wie die unserer Heimatgalaxie denken, der Milchstraße: Milliarden von...

Alle Focus-News des Innovations-reports >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

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

Meeresbiologe Mark E. Hay zu Gast bei den "Noblen Gesprächen" am Beutenberg Campus in Jena

16.10.2017 | Veranstaltungen

bionection 2017 erstmals in Thüringen: Biotech-Spitzenforschung trifft in Jena auf Weltmarktführer

13.10.2017 | Veranstaltungen

Tagung „Energieeffiziente Abluftreinigung“ zeigt, wie man durch Luftreinhaltemaßnahmen profitieren kann

13.10.2017 | Veranstaltungen

 
VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
Weitere VideoLinks >>>
Aktuelle Beiträge

ESO-Teleskope beobachten erstes Licht einer Gravitationswellen-Quelle

16.10.2017 | Physik Astronomie

Was läuft schief beim Noonan-Syndrom? – Grundlagen der neuronalen Fehlfunktion entdeckt

16.10.2017 | Biowissenschaften Chemie

Gewebe mit Hilfe von Stammzellen regenerieren

16.10.2017 | Förderungen Preise