Edgelings

Are Micro-Organisms the Key to 'Green' Coal?

Energy prices are skyrocketing and the cry for new domestic sources of fuel grows louder by the day. Yet, the only thing being drilled in the US these days is the wallets of corporations and consumers alike; and the only gusher is profits for off-shore energy companies. Exploration of new energy sources in the US has been virtually shut down by environmental concerns which, in too many corridors of political power today, trump any and all economic or national security arguments.

But a Colorado company may have found the answer to creating a “green” natural gas company:

Bugs.

LUCA Technologies of Golden, Co (WWW.Lucatechnologies.com) is developing processes to use naturally occurring microorganisms that convert under-utilized domestic oil, organic-rich shale, and coal resources into sources for clean, renewable energy.

Working over the last decade in the Powder River basin shale fields of Wyoming, LUCA made an stunning — and puzzling — discovery.  It found discovered large pockets of natural gas, much larger in fact than should have naturally occurred in normal coal fields.  Where, the company asked itself, did this gas come from?

What LUCA eventually discovered was that the Powder River fields contained naturally occurring ancient, anaerobic microorganisms (those that live without oxygen) that “eats” organic-rich shale and coal and turns it into natural gas. And these tiny bugs had produced very large volumes of it.   Only now, after years of studying this little creatures, is LUCA ready to announce its discovery.

And it’s timing couldn’t be better.

Addressing the $150 billion domestic natural gas market, LUCA hopes to generate clean renewable energy in a continuous, “real time” fashion and in commercial volumes. The company employs genomics, molecular biology and other tools of biotechnology to detect, classify and study these organisms and the underground “Geobioreactors” in which they act. Company scientists are also developing methods of managing specific consortia’s gas production capabilities in situ for the large-scale production of natural gas and potentially, hydrogen.

In doing so, LUCA believes it will open the door to the creation of a new industry with the potential to solve U.S. domestic energy needs long-term, as well as provide a cost-effective, reliable and renewable source of the cleanest burning hydrocarbon fuel.

LUCA Technologies has recently discovered that Powder River isn’t the only place where these critters can be found: on-going biogenic production of methane (natural gas) is taking place today in a number of large coal fields in the United States. This methane production is the result of indigenous populations of microorganisms that, in the absence of oxygen, metabolize the large hydrocarbon molecules present in coal and oil into smaller hydrocarbons, principally methane.

As you might imagine, LUCA’s goal is to harness these microbes and apply their eating habits throughout the vast US coal fields to create a large volume commercial gas company that is both green in it’s approach and domestic in it’s production. And if you think the idea is a bit “buggy” don’t tell that to the legendary venture capital firm Kleiner-Perkins, which has made a substantial investment in the company.