Methane-producing microbial community in a coal bed of the Illinois Basin

Dariusz Stra̧poć, Flynn W. Picardal, Courtney Turich, Irene Schaperdoth, Jennifer L. Macalady, Julius S. Lipp, Yu Shih Lin, Tobias F. Ertefai, Florence Schubotz, Kai Uwe Hinrichs, Maria Mastalerz, Arndt Schimmelmann

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242 Scopus citations


A series of molecular and geochemical studies were performed to study microbial, coal bed methane formation in the eastern Illinois Basin. Results suggest that organic matter is biodegraded to simple molecules, such as H 2 and CO2, which fuel methanogenesis and the generation of large coal bed methane reserves. Small-subunit rRNA analysis of both the in situ microbial community and highly purified, methanogenic enrichments indicated that Methanocorpusculum is the dominant genus. Additionally, we characterized this methanogenic microorganism using scanning electron microscopy and distribution of intact polar cell membrane lipids. Phylogenetic studies of coal water samples helped us develop a model of methanogenic biodegradation of macromolecular coal and coal-derived oil by a complex microbial community. Based on enrichments, phylogenetic analyses, and calculated free energies at in situ subsurface conditions for relevant metabolisms (H2-utilizing methanogenesis, acetoclastic methanogenesis, and homoacetogenesis), H 2-utilizing methanogenesis appears to be the dominant terminal process of biodegradation of coal organic matter at this location.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2424-2432
Number of pages9
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Food Science
  • Ecology
  • Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology


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