The bacterial strain, Methylocella silvestris, can use methane or propane as a carbon and energy source. During growth on a mixture of these gases, efficient consumption of both gases occurred at the same time.

Methane is generated both by biological processes and by thermogenic decomposition of fossil organic material.

The bacterial strain could also be used to target man-made leaks from 'fracking' and oil spills. Hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, as it is popularly called, refers to the process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside.

The microbe can grow on both methane and propane at a similar rate, said Colin Murrell, an environmental sciences professor at the University of East Anglia.

The bacterium is found in peat, tundra and forest soils in Northern Europe, Discovery News reported.

The study appeared in the journal Nature.


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