January/February 2010

Japanese project aims to turn CO2 into natural gas

Japanese researchers said they hoped to enlist bacteria in the fight against global warming to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) buried under the seabed into natural gas.

The researchers at the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology aim to activate bacteria found naturally in earth to turn CO2 into methane, a major component of natural gas, reports AFP.

A team led by chief researcher Fumio Inagaki have already confirmed the bacteria exists in the crust deep under the seabed off the northern tip of Japan's main island, a spokesperson said.

But the project faces a big challenge to develop a method of activating the bacteria and accelerating the speed of methane gas generation, a spokesman for the agency acknowledged.

In the natural environment, the bacteria turn CO2 into methane gas very slowly, over billions of years, he said. The researchers hope to develop technology within about five years to activate the bacteria and shorten the transformation time to about 100 years, he said.

The aim is for the bacteria to produce methane gas from CO2 buried in a layer about 6,600 feet under the sea bed, the agency said.