Enhanced Biological Natural Gas Production from Coal - China Gateway - a proposal for IU President's International Research Awards

Status Start Date End Date Locations
completed Jul 1, 2017 Jun 30, 2020 All Counties
Director: Maria Mastalerz
Other Researchers: Flynn Picardal, SPEA, is the Project Director
Funding: Indiana University - Office of the Vice Provost of Research
Issue: Coal has been one of the major energy sources worldwide, with China and the Unites States being the main producers. Coal mining and utilization have resulted in large quantities of coal mining and processing waste. For example, it is estimated that coal mining waste in China accounts for ~15% of their coal production. In the USA, coal mines produce more than 150 million tons of coal refuse annually. All this material, if not properly stored, disposed, or utilized, causes environmental hazards. However, this material typically contains valuable organic components that could be utilized, converting this waste into a valuable resource.
Objective: There are 2 specific objectives that will be accomplished during the studies funded by the President’s International Research Award: (1) We will build upon a year’s worth of preliminary research using small bottle reactors on methane generation from fungal-treated coal, and determine if methane can be generated using coal slurry in a larger sequential aerobic-anaerobic stirred tank reactor. (2) We will also evaluate the effects of operating parameters, e.g., temperature, pH and medium composition on methane generation **Flynn Picardal, SPEA, is the Project Director
Approach: Conceptually, the system proposed would use aerobic fungal treatment to break down coal particulates, to produce an activated coal surface with increased oxygen-containing functional groups, and to generate soluble organic matter. The reactor containing the treated slurry will then be purged with N2 to remove O2 and a suitable methane-generating microbial culture will be added. Subsequent microbial fermentation and methanogenesis would occur during this anaerobic treatment phase.
Products: The proposal was submitted from SPEA in October. If successful it would results in: 1) USA-China exchange of researchers 2) New research published in peer-reviewed journals
Benefits: 1) Enhanced international collaboration 2) New data related to utilization of poor quality coals and coal waste