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article imageAncient microbes have industrial potential

By Tim Sandle     May 12, 2014 in Science
Norwegian scientists have found that microorganisms that live in the depths of an oil reservoir can withstand such extreme conditions they can be used in harsh chemical processes in industry.
Petroleum reservoirs that lie three kilometres beneath the seabed hold oil, gas and microorganisms. The microorganisms have lived in isolation for millions of years, ever since the process of converting organic matter to fossil fuels first began.
The microorganisms they have brought up from the depths and the researchers, based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), think that they have industrial potential. To find out more about the microbes, researchers have been cataloging the species with the use of DNA sequencing technologies.
The microorganisms found in oil reservoirs have a metabolism that is based on thermostable enzymes, which are enzymes that work well at high temperatures. These kinds of enzymes can be used to streamline various chemical processes because they can withstand high temperatures. The enzymes could be used in processes involving biomass decomposition, such as wood to ­produce biofuels and other biorefinery products.
Some initial findings about the microorganisms have been published in the journal Environmental Microbiology, in a paper titled “The microbial communities in two apparently physically separated deep subsurface oil reservoirs show extensive DNA sequence similarities.”
More about Microbes, Water, Oil, Petrol
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