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article imageNew genus of bacteria found in fracking wells

By Tim Sandle     Sep 11, 2016 in Science
Dig deep and there are potentially hundreds of bacteria on Earth that have yet to be discovered or characterized. One recent discovery relates to fracking where a new genus of bacteria has been discovered.
The discovery has come about after microbiologists, reviewing the genomes of microorganisms living in shale oil and gas wells, came across a new genus. For the time being, at least, the new genus has been dubbed “Frackibacter.” The full name for the organism is Candidatus frackibacter.
The Ohio State University discovery is of a bacterium that is unique to hydraulic fracturing sites. Speaking with Laboratory Roots, lead researcher, Dr. Kelly Wrighton said: “Candidatus indicates that a new organism is being studied for the first time using a genomic approach, not an isolated organism in a lab culture. The researchers chose to name the genus “Frackibacter” as a play on the word “fracking,” shorthand for “hydraulic fracturing.”
The new bacterium is hardy since it must tolerate high temperature, pressure and salinity. This has been supported by laboratory studies.
As well as the new genus evidence suggests that microorganisms in shale well occupy their own special ecosystem and have established communities that differ from those found in other ecological niches. So far some 31 different types of bacteria have been characterized as residing in shale wells, although the 30 of these are found in other parts of the world. These more common microorganisms probably came from ponds or other water sources.
Another interesting observation is that although fracking sites are many miles apart and involve drilling into different shale formations, the microbial communities are remarkably similar.
This is borne out from a detailed analysis of microbial communities from drilled Utica shale and Marcellus shale. It seems that hydraulic fracturing provides the organisms, chemistry and physical space to support microbial ecosystems in ∼2,500-meter-deep shales.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Microbiology. The research paper is titled “Microbial metabolisms in a 2.5-km-deep ecosystem created by hydraulic fracturing in shales.”
More about frackibacter, Fracking, Bacteria, Shale gas, shale wells
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