The University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia, which claims a research breakthrough in increasing gas yields from coal seams and biogas plants, will partner with India’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) to develop industrial application in coal seams gas wells operated by state-run Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

The research breakthrough can bring significant increase in gas yields from coal seams and biogas plants. 

Microbiologists at the UNSW claim that by adding a synthetic dye, a ten-fold increase in the volume of methane gas produced by microbes in coal seams and in biogas derived from agricultural and food waste was observed.

Recently, the Australia India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) announced a grant of $1m to support the project.

According to the research team, increase in gas volumes was found outside the labs in Sydney’s coal seams.

But, the trials in India would feature a battery of industrial-scale tests where critical factors and variables such as coal seam pressure, temperature and technologies enable the introduction of the dye will be tested.

The team says that this research could extend the life of coal seam gas well and also boast the production of bio-digesters, where carbon-neutral organic waste is used for methane gas generation.

Currently, India’s electricity grid is under intense pressure and there are still some areas with no power. Increasing methane production through such new methods not only solves the energy needs but can also open up new sources of gas.

Most of India’s untapped coal is younger and softer, where microbes can be introduced to produce methane gas. The UNSW research can be commercial more attractive for coal seam gas production.

UNSW associate professor and the project leader Mike Manefield said: “This is very exciting and likely to be a game changer.

“There is a lot riding on natural gas, or methane, to help bring global emissions down as the world transitions to cleaner fuels.

“As gases burn far more efficiently than solids, you emit half as much carbon dioxide for the same amount of electricity when you burn gas, compared to coal.”

Image: Project lead Mike Manefield and Sabrina Beckmann. Photo: Courtesy of Nick Cubbin/ University of New South Wales.