By properly channelling scientific knowledge about oil-consuming bacteria, vast untapped sources of energy could be availed. Two main ideas for accomplishing this goal are being mooted. The first involves introducing bacteria that will attack antagonist bacteria, thereby reducing the emission of methane. The second method involves applying bacteria that will serve as a catalyst for the oil, thereby aiding transportation.
It is a little known fact that germs co-habit energy reserves underground and that the actively feed on select oil compounds and leave by-products. These tiny bacteria are called archaea. Scientists are now exploring ways of tapping into these natural processes toward efficient production and transportation of energy. The cherished goal at the moment is to make extraction possible from oil sands – a resource that is abundant in Canada.
Scientists working for Genome Alberta program are trying to identify the behaviour and ecological habitation of various bacteria thriving in oil. As of now, one of the major causes of inefficiency in oil transportation is corrosion, which happens due to the reaction of bacteria-created by-products on the surface of pipelines. To solve this problem, suitable bacterial antidotes could be introduced to attack the problematic bacteria species. Another method to mitigate this problem is by using generic biocides.
The bacteria found in oil sands feed on leftover bitumen – a highly viscous state of oil. The bacteria then leave behind methane as the by-product, which has detrimental effects on the environment, mainly due to its green-house effect. In this scenario, scientists are exploring two options for remedying the situation. The first is to introduce bacteria that will attack the methane-producing bacteria. The second option is to introduce bacteria that will consume methane.
Though methane increases green-house effect, it is not so bad when produced sub-terrestrially, thereby aiding the production of natural gas. Bitumen is a more condensed source of energy than natural gas, but it is highly viscous. Hence, the most attractive proposition is to introduce bacteria that will help thin bitumen without reacting with it. But, though this proposal looks ideal on paper, it goes against conventional wisdom. For centuries, bacteria observed in oil reserves have almost always increased its thickness. The challenge now for the scientific community is to apply their knowledge to practical gains.