British and Canadian scientists expect to begin trials next month (May) to find out whether microbes can unlock the vast amount of energy trapped in the world's unrecoverable heavy oil deposits.
An estimated six trillion barrels of oil remain underground because the oil has become either solid or too thick to be brought to the surface at economic cost by conventional means.
However, scientists at Newcastle University, England, and the University of Calgary, Canada, have set up a company, Profero Energy Inc, to build on their recent research, which demonstrated how naturally-occurring microbes convert oil to natural gas (methane) over tens of millions of years.
The company is preparing to move on-site to begin pumping a special mixture of nutrients, dissolved in water, down an oil well above exhausted oil deposits in western Canada. If the scientists' calculations are correct, natural gas should flow back out, as the microbes thrive on the nutrients, multiply, and digest the tar-like oil at a greatly increased rate.
Profero Energy has financial backing from Newcastle-based venture capital company Novotech Investments Ltd and is being watched with great interest by the oil and gas exploration industry. With the price of natural gas soaring in recent months, companies are becoming increasingly interested in new technologies.
A major advance in the understanding of the way that petrolium is degraded by microbes underground was made by a research team, led by Professor Ian Head and Dr Martin Jones of Newcastle University and Professor Steve Larter, who works at both Newcastle University and the University of Calgary, which published a ground-breaking paper in January this year in the international academic journal, Nature.
The research provided the answers to a long-standing geological puzzle by revealing that two types of microbe found in environments containing crude oil were responsible for converting it into methan
|Contact: Mick Warwicker|