Methoxyl stable isotopic constraints on the origins and limits of coal-bed methane

M. K. Lloyd, E. Trembath-Reichert, K. S. Dawson, S. J. Feakins, M. Mastalerz, V. J. Orphan, A. L. Sessions, J. M. Eiler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Microbial coal-bed methane is an important economic resource and source of a potent greenhouse gas, but controls on its formation are poorly understood. To test whether the microbial degradability of coal limits microbial methane, we monitored methoxyl group demethylation-a reaction that feeds methanogenesis-in a global sample suite ranging in maturity from wood to bituminous coal. Carbon isotopic compositions of residual methoxyl groups were inconsistent with a thermal reaction, instead implying a substrate-limited biologic process. This suggests that deep biosphere communities participated in transforming plant matter to coal on geologic time scales and that methoxyl abundance influences coal-bed methane yield. Carbon isotopic enrichments resulting from microbial methylotrophy also explain an enigmatic offset in the carbon-13 content of microbial methane from coals and conventional hydrocarbon deposits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)894-897
Number of pages4
Issue number6569
StatePublished - Nov 12 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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