Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Life in the tar pits

OK, this is really strange:
For years, educators at the Hancock Park site could only guess that methane gas was being released as the byproduct of oil creation 1,000 feet below the surface.

Researchers at UC Riverside have finally found the answer: Hardy bacteria embedded in the natural asphalt are eating away at the petroleum and burping up methane.

Of the bacteria the researchers isolated in tar pit samples, about 200 to 300 are previously unknown species.

And scientists are weird:
"We found some really great bacteria," Crowley said. "The types we found are all very specialized for life in extreme environments."

Living in the asphalt means living with no oxygen, almost no water and lots of toxic chemicals, he said.

But I'm wondering if this might lead to a variety of new technologies.

What makes these petroleum-eating bacteria interesting is their potential environmental application, Crowley said.

Their ability to break up complex hydrocarbons could help clean up oil spills or clear the holds of oil tankers.

Some of the species they discovered in the genus Pseudomonas, for example, could help degrade trichloroethylene, a solvent in dry-cleaning and metal degreasing that is a major groundwater contaminant, Crowley said.,0,2989385.story?page=2&coll=la-home-center

1 comment:

Demeur said...

I know it sounds strange but this is a type of remediatiƓn that has been in development for some time now. We in the business call it spray and pray as it only has marginal results.
In other environmental news there is:;_ylt=AgWD_tUo2hCwsUXUXFqgVC_MWM0F
Does this mean an end to the blue footed boobie?
I hope not.