A microbial route from coal to gas

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Science  14 Oct 2016:
Vol. 354, Issue 6309, pp. 184
DOI: 10.1126/science.aai8101

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Many coal wells produce methane through the microbial decomposition of coal (1). About 7% of methane that reaches the atmosphere is derived from coal beds and contributes considerably to the greenhouse effect (2). But how is coal converted into methane? Which compounds in the coal are degraded, and which microbes are responsible? On page 222 of this issue, Mayumi et al. (3) report the discovery of methanogenic archaea that convert complex organic compounds released from coal directly into methane by a previously unknown type of metabolism.