- Number 412 |
- April 28, 2014
Scientists from DOE's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in conjunction with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have discovered that a type of bacterial resistance may provide more efficient production of biofuels.
The team identified the genetic origin of bacterial resistance to an ionic liquid (a salt in the liquid state), which they successfully introduced into a strain of E. coli bacteria for advanced biofuels production. The ionic liquid resistance is based on a pair of genes discovered in a microbial species native to a tropical rainforest in Puerto Rico.
The team identified two genes in a rainforest soil bacterium that’s tolerant to specific ionic liquids, and transferred them as part of a genetic module into an E. coli biofuel host.
In the annals of impressive eating, there was The Cat That Swallowed the Canary and The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. Now, add The Microbe That Consumes the Methane.
A microbe capable of digesting methane could save countless tons of greenhouse gas from reaching the atmosphere during the hydraulic fracturing process. Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, uses pressurized water to fracture rock to release natural gas. It's been a boon to local economies and a source of inexpensive fuels—but if nothing is done to capture the byproduct methane, which is typically flared in the air, it can also contribute heftily to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Scientists at DOE's National Energy Technology Laboratory set out to create a data and modeling system to support DOE’s mission to produce science-based evaluations of engineered and natural systems, ensure sustainable, environmentally responsible access to U.S. resources, and help prevent future hydrocarbon spills and impacts. One result of this effort is NETL’s Blowout and Spill Occurrence Model (BLOSOM), an integrated system designed to simulate offshore oil spills resulting from deepwater (greater than 500 feet) and ultra-deepwater (greater than 5,000 feet) well blowouts.
Recently, researchers used BLOSOM in an international oil spill model intercomparison study focused on improving understanding and predictions of plume dynamics and droplet-size distributions associated with subsea hydrocarbon spills or seeps.
To understand the most effective path to reduce the amount and speed of climate change, scientists are funneling world economic, energy and ecosystem data into integrated assessment models to come up with possible futures. Without a model-based analysis, it would be difficult to gauge the extent that possible emission mitigation strategies are themselves vulnerable to climate change. For instance, a robust agricultural sector will be necessary for a transition toward an energy system that is more reliant on bioenergy and less on fossil fuels. However, if agriculture is strained by climate change, such a transition may not be effective for reducing emissions. In this research from DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, scientists are solving those puzzles, piece by piece.
The study closed a loop of inter-model comparisons conducted in the past five years, in which models of different disciplines passed information among each other to generate a coherent picture of the future.