Australian bio-engineers have discovered two new methane-eating organisms that could help clean up anything from gassy coal operations to cattle farms.

Researcher Associate Professor Gene Tyson was part of the international project led by his team at the University of Queensland, which discovered the previously unknown methane microorganisms in a wide range of environments, including deep-ocean and freshwater sediments.

The organisms appear to be involved in both emitting and consuming greenhouse gases, leading some to suggest that such organisms involved in carbon cycling and methane production are missing from our scientific knowledge.

“Traditionally, these types of methane-metabolising organisms occur within a single cluster of microorganisms called Euryarchaeota,” Dr Tyson said.

“This makes us wonder how many other types of methane-metabolising microorganisms are out there?”

The project was led by an Australian team because the techniques used to sequence microorganism DNA on a large scale have been developed at the Australian Centre for Ecogenomics.