Methoxyl stable isotopic constraints on the origins and limits of coal-bed methane

Microbial coal-bed methane is an important economic resource and source of a potent greenhouse gas, but controls on its formation are poorly understood. To test whether the microbial degradability of coal limits microbial methane, we monitored methoxyl group demethylation-a reaction that feeds methanogenesis-in a global sample suite ranging in maturity from wood to bituminous coal. Carbon isotopic compositions of residual methoxyl groups were inconsistent with a thermal reaction, instead implying a substrate-limited biologic process. This suggests that deep biosphere communities participated in transforming plant matter to coal on geologic time scales and that methoxyl abundance influences coal-bed methane yield. Carbon isotopic enrichments resulting from microbial methylotrophy also explain an enigmatic offset in the carbon-13 content of microbial methane from coals and conventional hydrocarbon deposits.



Work Title Methoxyl stable isotopic constraints on the origins and limits of coal-bed methane
Open Access
  1. M. K. Lloyd
  2. E. Trembath-Reichert
  3. K. S. Dawson
  4. S. J. Feakins
  5. M. Mastalerz
  6. V. J. Orphan
  7. A. L. Sessions
  8. J. M. Eiler
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. Science
Publication Date November 12, 2021
Publisher Identifier (DOI)
Deposited July 22, 2022




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Work History

Version 1

  • Created
  • Added abg0241_combinedpdf_v6.pdf
  • Added Creator M. K. Lloyd
  • Added Creator E. Trembath-Reichert
  • Added Creator K. S. Dawson
  • Added Creator S. J. Feakins
  • Added Creator M. Mastalerz
  • Added Creator V. J. Orphan
  • Added Creator A. L. Sessions
  • Added Creator J. M. Eiler
  • Published