University of Vienna: Searching For Oil And Gas With Molecular Biological Methods

Despite all efforts to switch to renewable energies, fossil fuels will continue to play a role in energy supply for several decades to come. An EU project, which involves Thomas Rattei and his team, aims at reducing the ecological footprint in the search for new oil and gas deposits. The international team of researchers and industry representatives is collaborating in the development of molecular biological methods for locating deposits. These methods are intended to replace deep drilling, which is highly intrusive to the environment.

Even in times of energy transition, oil and gas will continue to play an important role in Europe’s energy supply for at least 30 years. In order to minimise the ecological footprint in the intensified search for domestic deposits, new methods for finding deposits are needed. A very new and promising approach is based on molecular biological methods as they are designed to map changes in sediments above reservoirs where microorganisms are exposed to natural hydrocarbon leakage. On this basis, in the EU project PROSPECTOMICS led by the German Research Centre for Geosciences Potsdam (GFZ) industrially applicable methods are being developed. The project receives 3.4 million euros in funding (for 42 months) within the framework of the EU Horizon2020 programme Future Emerging Technologies (FET). In this project, the Viennese team of bioinformaticians and computational biologists is collaborating with scientific groups from Germany and Luxembourg, as well as a Norwegian exploration company. Thomas Rattei’s research group is responsible for analysing the data collected in the project using bioinformatics methods, integrating the project’s extremely large data volumes, and developing AI models for reservoir prediction.