Hydrogeologic Controls, Initiation, and In-Situ Rates of Microbial Methanogenesis in Organic-Rich Reservoirs: Illinois Basin, U.S.A.
AdvisorMcIntosh, Jennifer C
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractMicrobial methane from subsurface organic-rich units such as coals and shale support approximately 5% of the United States and Canada's energy needs. In the deep subsurface, microbial methane is formed by the metabolism of primarily CO2, H2, and acetate by methanogens. These metabolites are the by-products of multi-step biodegradation of complex organic matter by microbial consortia. This study investigates microbial methane in the Illinois Basin, which is present in organic-rich shallow glacial sediments (surficial), Pennsylvanian coals (up to 600 m depth), and the Upper Devonian New Albany Shale (up to 900 m depth). Findings from the study show that hydrogeochemical conditions are favorable for methanogenesis in each reservoir, with a decrease in groundwater flushing rates corresponding to a decrease in average reservoir depth and an increase in carbon isotopic fractionation. The deeper reservoirs (coals and shale) were paleopasteurized, necessitating re-inoculation by methanogens. The microbes were likely advectively transported from shallow sediments into the coals and shale, where areas of microbial methanogenesis correlate with freshwater recharge. The recharge in the shale was primarily sourced from paleoprecipitation with minor contributions from glacial meltwater during the Pleistocene (4He ages). All areas sampled in the shale were affected by Pleistocene recharge, however groundwater ages in areas of microbial methanogenesis are younger (average 0.33 Ma) than areas with thermogenic methane (average 1.0 Ma). Estimates of in-situ microbial methane production rates for the shale (10-1000 TCF/Ma) are 104-106 times slower than laboratory rates. Only limited biodegradation is observed in the shale. In-situ stimulation of methane production may be most effective if aimed at increasing production of the supporting microbial consortia as well as methanogens. Trace metal concentrations in the shale are below known levels of inhibition or enhancement, with the exception of Fe, suggesting that microbial methanogenesis is not repressed by any of the measured trace metals and may be improved with the addition of Ag, Co, Cr, Ni, and Zn.
Degree ProgramGraduate College