Natural gas is an important component of the energy mix in the United States, producing greater energy yield per unit weight and less pollution compared to coal and oil. Most of the world’s natural gas resource is thermogenic, produced in the geologic environment over time by high temperature and pressure within deposits of oil, coal, and shale. About 20 percent of the natural gas resource, however, is produced by microorganisms (microbes). Microbes potentially could be used to generate economic quantities of natural gas from otherwise unexploitable coal and shale deposits, from coal and shale from which natural gas has already been recovered, and from waste material such as coal slurry. Little is known, however, about the microbial production of natural gas from coal and shale.
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Microbial production of natural gas from coal and organic-rich shale