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Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Frackibacter - the new bacteria identified in shale oil wells

Ohio State University researchers and their colleagues have identified a new genus of bacteria living inside hydraulic fracturing wells. Here, "produced water fluid" -- the fluid that is collected at the surface of a hydraulic fracturing well after fracturing -- is being filtered. The fluid is orange because it contains large amounts of iron that oxidizes when the fluids are brought to the surface. By analyzing the genomes of microbes in the filtered water, the researchers are piecing together the existence of microbial communities inside the wells. Credit: Rebecca Daily, Courtesy of The Ohio State University. (Courtesy: Phys dot Org)

A sustainable ecosystem was discovered in shale oil and gas wells by analyzing the genomes of the organisms – the never seen bacteria called Frackibacter is one of 31 members living in such wells. The research was carried by Ohio State University researchers and their colleagues that published recently in the journal Nature Microbiology.

Researchers discovered that there are identical microbial communities in the wells, although they were hundreds of miles apart and drilled in different types of shale formations. All the bacteria identified are common but unlike one, the newly identified Candidatus frackibacter which is much unique.

According to biological nomenclature “Candidatus” indicates that the organism is identified using genomic approach and “Frackibacter” is named from hydraulic fracturing.

"We think that the microbes in each well may form a self-sustaining ecosystem where they provide their own food sources," Kelly Wrighton, assistant professor of microbiology and biophysics at Ohio State explained. "Drilling the well and pumping in fracturing fluid creates the ecosystem, but the microbes adapt to their new environment in a way to sustain the system over long periods."

Fluid sampling for over 328days led researchers to reconstruct genomes of bacteria and archaea living in the shale. To most surprise, all developed near identical microbial communities.

"We thought we might get some of the same types of bacteria, but the level of similarity was so high it was striking. That suggests that whatever's happening in these ecosystems is more influenced by the fracturing than the inherent differences in the shale," Wrighton said.

The C. frackibacter along with Halanaerobium eat osmoprotectans. These bacteria provided food for other microbial communities called methanogens. To validate this, researchers underwent microbial culture under similar conditions and the results proved to be exact.

One of the implications of the study is the methane producing microbes in shale wells could supplement well’s energy output.


Read More: Phys dot Org
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