Fossil Fuel Bioprocessing programs
MEHR -- Microbially Enhanced Hydrocarbon Recovery -- involves a broad diversity of metabolic processes that act either individually or cooperatively to improve hydrocarbon production and energy yields, and reduce the environmental footprint. An in-depth understanding of these metabolic processes and the controlling parameters comes from focused interdisciplinary research into model organisms or communities known to perform the relevant functions.
Microbial community structure, function and distribution in petroleum reservoirs have only recently begun to be described. This is largely due to advances in direct molecular techniques that allow us to detect organisms that cannot be cultivated by normal methods. Many petroleum reservoirs have well-established microbial communities which have had a major long-term impact on the evolution of petroleum in these reservoirs. Using techniques pioneered at Lawrence Berkeley Natural Laboratory, the program has merged the fields of molecular biology and ecology, combined with systems biogeochemistry, to focus on critical controllers of microbial function in reservoir and tar sand environments. Researchers are studying the ecosystem's genetic capacity and the biological or abiotic controls which determine the expression of that capacity.