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UW’s Secondary Biogenic CBNG Conference to Focus on ‘Methane Farming’ Technology

February 27, 2012
Methane recovery equpiment
Coal bed methane is recovered from a coal seam. The biogenic process, referred to as "methane farming," will be one of the subjects discussed during the Secondary Biogenic Coal Bed Natural Gas International Conference, which will be hosted by the University of Wyoming June 20-21, at the University of Wyomiong Conference Center and Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie.

For years, extraction of coal bed methane (CBM) was a one-and-done proposition: Extract the natural gas from the coal and move on to the next bed. Now, technologies are being developed that may allow for the continued production of CBM through the stimulation of microorganisms living in the coal bed.

The biogenic process, referred to as "methane farming," will be one of the subjects discussed during the Secondary Biogenic Coal Bed Natural Gas International Conference, which will be hosted by the University of Wyoming June 20-21, at the UW Conference Center and Hilton Garden Inn in Laramie. The conference begins at 8 a.m. June 20 and concludes at 3 p.m. June 21. Conference registration is under way.

The conference is presented by UW's Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research, School of Energy Resources and the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

"With this approach, you need to look at the coal seam as a biological reactor. Microorganisms living within the coal seam have been producing natural gas for thousands of years. All we have to do is engineer the system to produce more gas, faster," says Michael Urynowicz, UW Department of Civil and Architectural Engineering associate professor, and director of UW's Center for Biogenic Natural Gas Research. "Basically, if you can find ways to make the microorganisms happy, they will create more natural gas."

These technologies also could be applied to depleted coal seams located throughout the Power River Basin, with the added economic benefit of existing coal bed methane-related infrastructure.

Luca Technologies, based in Denver; and Ciris Energy, Inc., located in Centennial, Colo.; are companies that are working to commercialize "methane farming" in the Power River Basin. Representatives from those companies, other CBM representatives and researchers, including faculty and student delegations from Australia and India, are expected to attend, according to Urynowicz. He said he expects nearly 100 conference attendees from countries all over the world.

"Even though natural gas prices are currently low, there is still a lot of interest in this technology," Urynowicz says. "It has the potential to create a new energy paradigm by changing the way we look at coal and other fossil fuels."

Rob Hurless, UW SER deputy director, will be the keynote speaker. He is currently on loan to Gov. Matt Mead and works on energy strategy for the state.  He previously served as energy and telecommunications adviser to former Gov. Dave Freudenthal. A keynote time and date has yet to be determined.

Luca Technologies will sponsor a pre-conference field trip to the Powder River basin June 18-19. Buses will depart at noon June 18, from the Hilton Garden parking lot near the main lobby area. Luca Energy will sponsor transportation, lunches, dinner and field trip excursions. Attendees will be responsible for payment of their room at the Hampton Inn in Sheridan. Rooms will be available at the group rate of $114 per night, plus taxes. If interested in attending the field trip, contact Kelly Garvey at

For UW faculty interested in submitting an abstract to be considered for platform or poster presentation at the conference, go to

Session topics include, but are not limited to, the following areas:

  • Microbiology in Coal Bed Reservoirs and other Carbonaceous Deposits.
  • Coal Solubilization/Depolymerization Processes.
  • Biogenic Natural Gas Production.

The submission deadline for abstracts is Thursday, March 1. To submit applications, e-mail Garvey.

Next Fuel Incorporated will present two $500 cash awards -- one for best poster and another for best oral presentation -- to student presenters. Winners will be announced at the end of the conference.

For more information about the conference, go to or e-mail

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