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'Living' biofilters could reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Date:6/6/2013

Biofilters containing naturally occurring microscopic organisms that live on methane gas could help reduce hard-to-manage greenhouse gas emissions in the petroleum, forest and agriculture industries.

University of Calgary researchers plan to deploy and test inexpensive "methane biofilters" to reduce low-volume methane emissions at oil and gas field sites, landfills/sludge lagoons, livestock feedlots, forest industry landfills and oilsands operations.

The three-year project received $495,100 from the Climate Change and Emissions Management (CCEMC) Corporation though its Biological Greenhouse Gas Management Program. The program is managed on behalf of CCEMC by Alberta Innovates Bio Solutions.

"The problem is we don't yet have a cost-effective solution in these industries for these low-volume, low-quality methane emissions," says project lead Patrick Hettiaratchi, professor of environmental engineering in the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering.

"Methane biofiltration is a clean and completely 'green' technology that offers a solution. The greenhouse gas benefit is that these biofilters convert methane to carbon dioxide," he says.

To control hard-to-manage emissions, researchers are looking to nature, where a family of bacteria called methanotrophs (which are found in soil, compost and other environments) uses methane as an energy source and, in doing so, coverts the gas to carbon dioxide.

"These bacteria will take the methane down to a few parts per million," or negligible levels, says Peter Dunfield, associate professor of biological sciences in the University of Calgary's Faculty of Science and a specialist in molecular environmental microbiology: the DNA-based monitoring of microbes in their natural habitat.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is still emitted from the biofilters, but CO2 is about 25 times less potent as a greenhouse gas than methane. So keeping the methane out of the atmosphere would reduce the industry sec
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Contact: Mark Lowey
mlowey@ucalgary.ca
403-210-8659
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

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