Source and Availability of Nutrients to Microbial Communities in a Biogenic Coal Bed Methane System
AuthorEarll, Marisa Melody
MetadataShow full item record
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.
EmbargoRelease after 13-Sep-2017
AbstractDespite the importance of coalbed methane (CBM) as a natural gas resource, little is known about the microbial communities responsible for production of biogenic CBM (~20% of all CBM gas). It is thought that coal-associated microbial communities are limited by nutrients, such as nitrogen or phosphate and a of suite trace elements, but it's not clear whether these nutrients are sourced from in-situ biodegradation of the coal or transported in with groundwater recharge. To address this knowledge gap, we examined the nitrogen and phosphorous species and trace metal geochemistry of the solid coal and overlying siliciclastic sediment and associated groundwater from monitoring wells across the Powder River Basin (PRB). Four Groups were identified that represent the geochemical evolution of groundwater from shallow unconsolidated siliciclastic aquifers, to recharge-associated coal waters, to sulfate-reducing coal waters, and finally, methanogenic coal waters, along a hydrologic gradient within single coal seams. The highest nutrient concentrations were found in the first two water types, and the lowest in the last two, suggesting that essential nutrients are mobilized at the surface and transported downgradient into the coal and overlying unconsolidated siliciclastic sediment. However, by the time groundwater reaches sulfate-reducing or methanogenic conditions, the nutrients are either utilized in reactions or precipitated under changing redox conditions. Sequential chemical extraction experiments of coal and siliciclastic core materials revealed that all essential nutrients for microbial methanogenesis are present and easily leachable into groundwater. Therefore, under anoxic conditions, microbial communities are unlikely to be limited by the presence of essential elements; rather, they are likely limited by the slow rates of coal biodegradation and liberation of essential nutrients.
Degree ProgramGraduate College