Genomics Blog

May 28, 2012 1:15 PM
Enhancing Energy Production and Environmental Outcomes through Genomics: The case for innovation

In February of 2012, Genome Alberta and the Public Policy Forum convened a day-long workshop in Calgary to explore the current potential of genomics to mitigate the environmental impact of hydrocarbon extraction and the longer term possibilities of the technology to enhance energy production. Leaders from research institutions, industry, government and non-profit organizations took part in the discussion which explored the potential for innovation in the field, and sought to uncover how to capitalize on this opportunity to lead in improving environmental outcomes and energy innovation.
The joint policy paper Enhancing Energy Production and Environmental Outcomes through Genomics: The case for innovation is now available and we encourage you download it and offer your comments and ideas to Genome Alberta's Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Gijs van Rooijen at

Here is a brief overview of the paper:
In seeking to reduce the environmental impact of extraction and driving to enhance hydrocarbon production, recent strides have been made in metagenomics, which is based on the ability to uncover and analyze the genetic potential of organisms in environmental samples. Microbial communities have existed in the environment for millions of years, and we have begun to understand their capacity to clean up toxic spills. With the advent of powerful new technologies, we can now understand how these processes take place and how we can begin to leverage these systems in the energy sector. 
Metagenomic research has already begun to make substantial contributions to the energy sector in key areas, such as microbial influenced corrosion of pipelines, reservoir souring, tailings ponds emissions and bioremediation.

To date, work in the hydrocarbon energy sector demonstrates that metagenomics presents an important opportunity to support innovation. Acting on this opportunity will require changes in policies and approaches across all sectors – government, research institutions and industry. With appropriate leadership and a drive towards definable objectives, the case can be made that this field is poised to advance energy innovation and serve as a test model for a new, collaborative approach for innovation in Canada.
In order to achieve success in advancing innovation in this area, the development of a cross-sector action plan which meets the needs of all stakeholders and catalyzes necessary science and policy changes, is essential. Key elements of this action plan need to include:

  1. The identification and involvement of champions across sectors.
  2. Developing the focus and drive across the various sectors and disciplines that hold a stake in this objective.
  3. Cultivating a degree of openness among research institutions, governments and industry, towards supporting hydrocarbon resource sector advancements through genomics.
  4. Instilling a collaborative mindset among all stakeholders. 

Genome Alberta was identified at the workshop as being in an ideal position to drive the action plan forward, but industry, government and research institution champions should be responsible for attracting multi-stakeholder perspectives, identifying promising areas of current or potential research in hydrocarbon metagenomics, and actively leading institutional changes within their sector to help facilitate collaborations.
With the appropriate public and private investments, improving hydrocarbon energy production and reducing environmental impacts through genomics is an area of great potential and, with appropriate planning, this field can lead in energy and environmental innovation, as well as demonstrate the use of more effective innovation support models in Canada.

Download the .pdf of Enhancing Energy Production and Environmental Outcomes through Genomics: The case for innovation now  



Doug -

The report has some similarities to algae as a source of biofuel. It seems, in fact, that the more we learn about energy production, the more we begin to rely on microbes as energy producers. In fact, something easily found outside any home could be a compost pile. Heat (energy) production could keep the compost warm even during cold weather.