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Brian Westenhaus

Brian Westenhaus

Brian is the editor of the popular energy technology site New Energy and Fuel. The site’s mission is to inform, stimulate, amuse and abuse the…

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Oil Recovery Techniques: Using Microbes to Recover Trapped Oil

The financial crisis of 2008 and the high gasoline prices that have haunted consumers since has the Peak Oil debate pressuring enhanced oil recovery.

Today there are many countries talking about the long-term impact that the consequences of Peak Oil might have on their economies and world relations. Discussion is addressing how best to reduce the serious impact and consequences of a world experiencing the situation of not having enough affordable oil to meet demand. Discussion in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Sweden and many others consider the concept of Peak Oil in some description or other, with attempts to put into place programs that will address the consequences of Peak Oil in a serious way by imposing politically mandated solutions.

That brings enhanced oil recovery techniques straight to the producers and consumers common interest.  Enhanced oil recovery offers bringing oil to market that is already found, with the production equipment pretty much already in place and existing transport to refining and consumers in place and in most cases – all paid for.

The research on Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR), which uses microbes to recover oil, has been underway for about 70 years.  Whether MEOR is practical and cost effective way to recover a portion of the oil that is trapped in global oil fields is beginning to get answered.   It’s estimated that about 6.2 trillion barrels of oil remain trapped in the already discovered oil fields, something approximately more than 5 to almost 6 times what mankind has used in the past 150 years.

In the past people in the oil industry would have had said the following about MEOR – its old technology that doesn’t work. MEOR has carried the stigma of “snake-oil” over the years. MEOR has pretty much been in the category of “myth” to many oil veterans.

The reality was, there’s good reason for that view because prior MEOR efforts to recover oil using microbes simply didn’t work well, or if it did, the oil recovery was sporadic, unreliable – simply a “hit or miss” proposition that created a very negative reputation for MEOR in the oil industry.  Flushing bugs into your well hasn’t looked so good so far.

But Titan Oil Recovery, a developer of new proprietary organic systems for oil recovery for the past 22 years has been quietly refining the technology with $30 million sunk into the effort.  Based on actual and substantial documented field treatment results, it’s clear that one organic oil recovery method is real and it does work and shockingly well.

Titan Oil Recovery in explaining what has been accomplished over the past four years working with some major oil companies relies on substantial documentation.  For the first time facts and findings support an organic oil recovery technology that does work and is being effectively used by oil companies in the United States and Canada.

How much more and at what cost?

Titan’s research efforts from the 1990s and early 2000s were applied at scale in oil fields beginning in 2007.  From July 2007 to December 2010 meticulous records have been kept. The pilot, or development, or testing stage depending on one’s view, applied treatment to 106 wells in 15 oil fields.  Results?

• 100% success rate on water injection well treatments.
• 80% success rate on oil production well treatments.
• 55 wells with 88 treatments showed an average production increase of 127%. 3 wells treated   are still in the pending category (results still in progress).
• 98 treatments of the 106 treatments are completed – the remaining 8 treatments are in the pending category (results still in progress on three producers and five injection wells).
• The organic oil recovery process creates the desired oil production response in oil fields.
• Delivers excellent financial results for field operators.
• All 106 treatments cost operators a total of $2,616,194 ($24,681 each). Incremental barrel gain recorded from these treatments so far is 105,511 barrels valued at $8,440,913 ($80 each), for a 223% return. 8% of the treatments are still in the “pending” stage.
• Results from two fields treated with full-field applications–the ideal and recommended protocol—are highlighted in the charts below. Because of the extraordinary results, both operators wrote Society of Petroleum Engineers papers validating the success of the process. These are available on request or at the SPE website (SPE Paper #124319 for Husky Energy and SPE Paper #129742 for the Venoco Inc. paper).
• The average cost for each incremental barrel from those two fields was $7.81 per barrel.

This compares to $20-50 per incremental barrel for other enhanced oil recovery methods.

Here are graphic representations of the results in Canada and California.

Microbial Oil Recovery Investment Results
Microbial Oil Recovery Investment Results

The cost per new barrel in Canada was $7.21 and in California $8.86.  In a $100 per barrel world that’s just cheap.

Is this real?  Chances are no one is going to roll Husky or Venoco into a scam.  Actually, all of us should be grateful they let a decades old idea with poor results have another shot.


There is a huge list of questions. How long does the treatment last? Can it be repeated? Is adding water a good idea before treatment and how much?  Titan’s site offers more, but one expects that as more oil field operators, managers, executives, mineral rights owners, stockholders, etc., get wind of this – everyone at Titan is going to be very busy.

One wonders, say 20% of the reserve was recovered conventionally.  What new percentage has been established by the treatment – anxious consumers wish to know!

Congratulations Titan, and thanks for the perseverance.

By. Brian Westenhaus

Source: What’s Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery and What Can It Do?

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  • Anonymous on June 14 2011 said:
    Out of all the "easy oil" remaining in the world, most is under the control of corrupt and incompetent national oil companies. The rest of the easy oil sits in old oil wells, waiting for smart people to devise new ways to increase recovery.The processes Brian describes are just the beginning for advanced oil recovery. Most old wells still contain at least 70% to 80% of original oil in place. "...about 6.2 trillion barrels of oil remain trapped in the already discovered oil fields, something approximately more than 5 to almost 6 times what mankind has used in the past 150 years. " :eek:

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