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The Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research exists to explore and develop the production of renewable, clean-burning natural gas from coal beds using indigenous microorganisms.

This process, called secondary biogenic coal bed natural gas production, will make it possible to enhance methane production from depleted coal seams.

The center’s primary research challenge is that coal is a complex polymeric solid that is not readily bioavailable to the indigenous microorganisms within the coal seam. With the proper treatments some of the coal within the coal seam can be transformed into a food source for the indigenous microorganisms thereby stimulating additional methane production. This process could be performed repeatedly providing a renewable source of naturally occurring methane and extending the productive life of the coal seams indefinitely.

The commercial-scale implementation of secondary biogenic gas production takes advantage of the same advantages that coal bed methane (CBM) has over other fossil fuels (e.g. clean burning, minimal surface disruption, ability to recover energy from unmineable coal seams). Other significant benefits of secondary biogenic coal bed natural gas include that it’s a “renewable” source of clean burning natural gas and it’s utilization of existing coal bed methane infrastructure, including recovery wells, pipes, compressors, and separation units. Although it relies on technological innovation, secondary biogenic CBNG aligns well with the “clean coal” movement that seeks to support and add value to Wyoming’s coal resources by keeping them viable in the energy economy of the future.

Structure

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The center grew out of the Biogenic CBM Research Consortium, a group of UW professors with R&D interests in the CBM field, and will assume a directing/supporting role alongside the research consortium. This role will include coordinating outreach, securing funding for practical studies including field-scale demonstration projects, and most important, uniting faculty and students in research while working with industry to commercialize new technologies.

The Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research will work closely with an industry advisory board and its industry sponsors to determine how best to serve the CBM industry through its research, education and outreach activities.

Aside from its director, associate director, principals and other affiliated faculty, the center includes graduate students working on related research projects.

Activities

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Research –

  • Address coal transformations and methane production – determine whether treatments can be utilized to make coal bioavailable to microbial processes
  • Address feasibility – determine which treatments are best, how much natural gas can be produced, how long biogenic methane production will last, cost implications, etc.

Education –

  • Support graduate students through the CBNG research consortium and its extramural funded research
  • Develop a seminar series to include scholars in industry and academia

Outreach –

  • Establish International Conference on Secondary Biogenic CBNG
  • Promote international collaboration
  • Promote technology transfer
  • Provide technical support for the CBM industry
  • Publish findings (e.g. white papers, technical journals)

Research areas

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  • Biogenic origins of PRB and other US coal
  • Biogeochemical factors that enhance microbially generated methane production
  • Adsorption/desorption in subbituminous coal
  • Depolymerization/solubilization of PRB coal
  • Attributes of methane producing bacteria

Assets/Advantages

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  • Early progress – There are no other known centers working to address these specific questions; UW inventors will be some of the earliest patent-holders of relevant technologies
  • Industry advisors – A board of interested parties from the private sector will ensure that CBNG research stays relevant, applicable and marketable via technology transfer
  • Experience – The research consortium represents accomplished UW faculty on the cutting edge of secondary biogenic natural gas research, who have already been awarded more than $6 million in grant funding
  • Timeliness – The perception of natural gas’ role as a “transition fuel,” offering advantages of fossil fuel with fewer pitfalls, will be a major draw for industry and regulatory agencies, thereby perpetuating the demand for fundamental research and applied technology

The Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research is working toward the commercial-scale development of technologies that will enable producers to derive cleaner, renewable biofuel energy from Wyoming’s coal resources using naturally occurring processes.

Qualities

  • Innovative
  • Pioneering
  • Renewable
  • Natural
  • Practical
  • Limitless

Announcements

Secondary BIOGENIC Coal Bed Natural Gas International Conference : June 20-21, 2012

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Reviving coal-bed methane wells

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