The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) conducts ongoing research in geomicrobiology to characterize microbial communities and relevant microbial processes in environments related to energy production.
Microbial processes affect reservoir properties such as porosity, permeability, pH, and interstitial fluid chemistry. Characterization of dominant microbial communities and respective microbial processes will help researchers optimize oil and gas production, carbon storage, and waste management. Further utilization of these microbial communities recovered from energy environments may lead to development of biotechnology for alternative energy, enhanced energy recovery, or treatment/upgrading of energy waste streams.
Access to environmental samples related to energy production such as oil and gas fields, carbon storage reservoirs, fluid impoundments, and coalbed reservoirs is key to successful metagenomic analysis. Traditionally, these types of samples have been difficult to obtain. However, because NETL is the only U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory devoted to fossil energy research, it has forged connections within the energy industry that can facilitate acquisition of relevant samples.