Biocatalysis of methane into high value products

Study level


Master of Philosophy


Vacation research experience scheme

Topic status

We're looking for students to study this topic.


Professor Ian O'Hara
Principal Research Scientist
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Professor Robert Speight
Professor (Microbial Biotechnology)
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty
Dr James Strong
Research Fellow
Division / Faculty
Science and Engineering Faculty


There are numerous instances where methane is released into the atmosphere, or wasted as flare gas. Methane mitigation is of global concern, as it is at least 20 times more damaging to the environment than carbon dioxide.

Methanotrophs are a unique set of bacteria capable of oxidising methane. Environmentally, they are responsible for sequestering an enormous volume of methane released from biological processes such as anaerobic digestion.

From a Biotechnology perspective, they have great potential for generating products such as   and represent  This project involves the design of a bioreactor to mitigate methane release, as well as generate commodity products such as feed protein, and harvest high value products such as ectoine (an osmolyte).

It has a potential for highly applied research as this technology is needed to mitigate industrial methane emissions (e.g. landfills, natural gas extraction and anaerobic digestion) technology, as well as publishable research regarding biolfilm and suspended cell function in Methylomicrobium alcaliphilum 20Z in pure and mixed culture.

Research activities

Skills developed will be:

  • Reactor design and scale-up to a pilot facility
  • Process design Fermentation skills (aerobic methane oxidation)
  • Downstream processing and product recovery
  • Analytical skills (GC-MS, HPLC-MS)


Ideally we would like to translate academic research into a functional bioreactor system at pilot scale for mitigating methane release and producing a biological commodity or niche chemical using methane as the carbon source.

Skills and experience

An understanding of the following would benefit the researcher:

  • gas-liquid phase interactions/mass transfer
  • microbial cultivation in liquid media or in biofilms
  • process engineering and biocatalysis


You may be able to apply for a research scholarship in our annual scholarship round.

Annual scholarship round



Contact the supervisor for more information.