Bacteria Could Stop Dangerous Gas Leaks

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Bacteria that live on methane and propane could be used to gobble up gas leaks before they contribute to global warming, according to a new study.

A bacterial strain (Methylocella silvestris) that grows on naturally occurring greenhouse gas leaks in the environment could also be used to target man-made leaks from fracking and oil spills, reports the study in today's Nature.

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The bacterium is found in peat, tundra and forest soils in Northern Europe. It's also been found in the microbial environment around the Deepwater Horizon spill.

The microbe can grow on both methane and propane at a similar rate, said lead researcher Colin Murrell, an environmental sciences professor at the University of East Anglia in the U.K., in a statement.

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"Molecule-for-molecule, the effect of methane on global warming is more than 20 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100 year timeframe," Murrell said. "It is therefore very important that we understand how it can be removed biologically in the environment before it is released into the atmosphere."

Photo: Petri dish. Credit: iStock

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