Hironobe Research Institute for the Subsurface Environment (Hironobe RISE) of Northern Advancement Center for Science and Technology found a microorganism to generate methane gas from diatomite and lignite minable across the country. A microorganism that creates methane from lignite is already available, but a microorganism that creates methane from diatomite was found for the first time in the world. The microorganism was found deep under the ground in Hirobe town in Hokkaido. Diatomite has accumulated dead phytoplankton, and the microorganism eats the dead phytoplankton and emits methane.
The newly found microorganism has up to 56 times higher production efficiency of methane. In the experiment, mixing 5 gm of diatomite with 50 ml of the culture solution created 3.5 ml methane per gram of diatomite in five weeks. Likewise, lignite created 6 ml of methane in four weeks. Dr. Yoichi Kamagata of National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology told that the new microorganism would open up the road to the low-cost effective utilization of underground resources. Although lignite does not serve any purpose because it contains lots of impurities, a mine in a city of Hokkaido alone has reserves of about 2 billion tons of lignite. The research team considers the method to pour the culture solution into abandoned coal mines to convert them as gas field. It plans to put the microorganism into practical use by 2020.