Craig Venter, one of the leading scientists who is well renowned for his invaluable contributions to genomic research, is here with yet another discovery. Founder and President of the J. Craig Venter Institute, proclaims the discovery of ancient bacteria that is capable of converting coal into methane. The invention is expected to play a vital role in dealing with the energy crisis faced globally. A huge number of micro-organisms collected from underground water eat coal and break it down into organic acids, hydrogen, CO2 etc. In the next stage all the organic acid, hydrogen and CO2 is converted to methane with the help of another organism that acts upon it. This organism has certain enzymes that help in the production of methane. Venter has joined hands with BP to support him in the project.
How will this discovery solve the energy crisis?
Venter believes the discovery could open up the world’s coalfields to an entirely new form of mining. This new and innovative way of mining produces methane without having to dig up the coal that is quite a hideous job. The CO2 emitted during this process is highly harmful though but the scientist is visualizing it as a raw material. Cells are being manufactured that use CO2 driven by sunlight to make biopolymers, methane and sugars.
The methane produced can be used in many ways. In cooking gas cylinders, we can utilize methane instead of propane. Coal-burning power plants could utilize the methane to heat water and generate more electricity. Even vehicles run on this gas put in cylinders similar to liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tanks. The success of this research will certainly help in solving the energy crisis to a large extent.
Consequences of the discovery
This discovery by the controversial American scientist would require extreme research and investment before being organized on an industrial scale. The micro-organisms act upon coal that is considered to be highly polluting as it produces greater amount of CO2 than any other fossil fuel. The amount of these harmful greenhouse gas emissions generated is expected to rise with time. Methane generated during the process is also a pollutant though significantly less. The discovery could have serious impact on the environment so the idea needs to treated cautiously.