Biostimulation to identify microbial communities involved in methane generation in shallow, kerogen-rich shales



Philippe M. Oger, PhD, Laboratoire de Géologie de Lyon, Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, UMR, CNRS, 5276, 46, Allée d'Italie, F-69342 Lyon Cedex 07, France. E-mail:



The aim of the present study was to design and test a method allowing the detection and quantification of methanogenic consortia in organic-rich rocks to determine the potential of methane biotransformation.

Methods and Results

Methanogen numbers in the rock are often below the detection levels of quantification methods. Biostimulation was tested as a means to specifically increase bacterial and archaeal numbers above the detection levels in microcosms. Biostimulation reveals the presence of active heterotrophic and syntrophic bacterial consortia, methane accumulation and methanogens in one of four rock samples. Syntrophs and heterotrophs were dominated by Firmicutes, whereas archaeal diversity was limited to methanogens. Methane-producing microcosms were characterized by a higher Firmicutes diversity.


Biostimulation is a reliable tool for detection of methanogenic consortia in organic-rich rocks. For routine and large scale experimentation, methane accumulation monitoring after biostimulation appears as the most time, work and cost efficient approach to detect the presence of active methanogenic consortia.

Significance and Impact of the Study

We report for the first time the presence of live methanogenic consortia in organic-rich shales and their ability to mineralize the rock into methane. This approach will be instrumental to quantify the potential of these rocks to produce methane as a novel energy source.