• 1 day PDVSA Booted From Caribbean Terminal Over Unpaid Bills
  • 1 day Russia Warns Ukraine Against Recovering Oil Off The Coast Of Crimea
  • 1 day Syrian Rebels Relinquish Control Of Major Gas Field
  • 2 days Schlumberger Warns Of Moderating Investment In North America
  • 2 days Oil Prices Set For Weekly Loss As Profit Taking Trumps Mideast Tensions
  • 2 days Energy Regulators Look To Guard Grid From Cyberattacks
  • 2 days Mexico Says OPEC Has Not Approached It For Deal Extension
  • 2 days New Video Game Targets Oil Infrastructure
  • 2 days Shell Restarts Bonny Light Exports
  • 2 days Russia’s Rosneft To Take Majority In Kurdish Oil Pipeline
  • 2 days Iraq Struggles To Replace Damaged Kirkuk Equipment As Output Falls
  • 2 days British Utility Companies Brace For Major Reforms
  • 2 days Montenegro A ‘Sweet Spot’ Of Untapped Oil, Gas In The Adriatic
  • 3 days Rosneft CEO: Rising U.S. Shale A Downside Risk To Oil Prices
  • 3 days Brazil Could Invite More Bids For Unsold Pre-Salt Oil Blocks
  • 3 days OPEC/Non-OPEC Seek Consensus On Deal Before Nov Summit
  • 3 days London Stock Exchange Boss Defends Push To Win Aramco IPO
  • 3 days Rosneft Signs $400M Deal With Kurdistan
  • 3 days Kinder Morgan Warns About Trans Mountain Delays
  • 3 days India, China, U.S., Complain Of Venezuelan Crude Oil Quality Issues
  • 3 days Kurdish Kirkuk-Ceyhan Crude Oil Flows Plunge To 225,000 Bpd
  • 3 days Russia, Saudis Team Up To Boost Fracking Tech
  • 4 days Conflicting News Spurs Doubt On Aramco IPO
  • 4 days Exxon Starts Production At New Refinery In Texas
  • 4 days Iraq Asks BP To Redevelop Kirkuk Oil Fields
  • 5 days Oil Prices Rise After U.S. API Reports Strong Crude Inventory Draw
  • 5 days Oil Gains Spur Growth In Canada’s Oil Cities
  • 5 days China To Take 5% Of Rosneft’s Output In New Deal
  • 5 days UAE Oil Giant Seeks Partnership For Possible IPO
  • 5 days Planting Trees Could Cut Emissions As Much As Quitting Oil
  • 5 days VW Fails To Secure Critical Commodity For EVs
  • 5 days Enbridge Pipeline Expansion Finally Approved
  • 5 days Iraqi Forces Seize Control Of North Oil Co Fields In Kirkuk
  • 5 days OPEC Oil Deal Compliance Falls To 86%
  • 5 days U.S. Oil Production To Increase in November As Rig Count Falls
  • 6 days Gazprom Neft Unhappy With OPEC-Russia Production Cut Deal
  • 6 days Disputed Venezuelan Vote Could Lead To More Sanctions, Clashes
  • 6 days EU Urges U.S. Congress To Protect Iran Nuclear Deal
  • 6 days Oil Rig Explosion In Louisiana Leaves 7 Injured, 1 Still Missing
  • 6 days Aramco Says No Plans To Shelve IPO
Alt Text

Is The Aramco IPO On The Brink Of Collapse?

Conflicting news suggests that Saudi…

Alt Text

Big Oil Refuses To Give Up On The Barents Sea

Despite failures in the Barents…

Alt Text

Is The Bakken Profitable At $50 Oil?

The Bakken remains the second…

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…

More Info

Using Microbes to Vastly Increase Recovery from Old Oil Wells

Using Microbes to Vastly Increase Recovery from Old Oil Wells

The best source of oil would be to increase oil recovery from the existing reservoirs already in production.  That oil is the easy stuff as pundits like to say, because in reality we already know that the infrastructure is pretty much there.

A research team at Oregon State (OSU) has taken a new look at an old, but seldom used technique developed by the petroleum industry to recover oil, and learned more about why it works, how it could be improved, and how it might be able to make a comeback not only in oil recovery but also environmental cleanup.

That cleanup angle could give the research effort even more backing.

The Oregon State version of the technology is developed from technology called “microbial enhanced oil recovery” (MEOR), first developed decades ago.  But oil well operators largely lost interest in it due to its cost, inconsistent results and a poor understanding of what was actually happening underground.

The Oregon State University engineers’ new findings have been published in the Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering.  The team’s new paper may offer a path the oil industry can use to produce more oil from their existing wells, but caould also find applications in cleaning up petroleum spills.

Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery
Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery View of Microbial Film Activity.

Dorthe Wildenschild, an associate professor in the OSU School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering explains that, “this approach of using microbes to increase oil recovery was used somewhat in the 1980s when oil prices were very high, but the field results weren’t very consistent and it was expensive. It’s seldom used now as a result.”

Oil production has always been difficult – it’s not as simple as drilling a hole and watching the petroleum gush out of the ground.  That may happen for a while, but as a secondary step, water is often injected into the well to help flush out more oil. Such production techniques generally recover only one-third to one-half of the oil originally present in a reservoir.

A third approach that was sometimes used after water injection is to inject microbes into the well and “feed” them with sugars such as molasses to encourage their growth. This activity can clog some pores and in others it has a “surfactant” effect, loosening the oil from the surface it clings to, much as a dishwasher detergent loosens grease from a pan.

Wildenschild explains, “By clogging up some pores and helping oil move more easily through others, these approaches can in theory be used with water flushing to help recover quite a bit more oil.”

The surfactant can be man-made, or microbes can be used to produce it at a lower cost. However, getting a particular culture of microbes to produce the biosurfactant under harsh field at high temperatures and pressure conditions is be a major challenge.

Wildenschild continues, “It’s complicated, you have to use just the right microbes, and feed them just the right foods, to accomplish what you want to do.”

In OSU laboratory experiments, Ryan Armstrong, a recent doctoral graduate at OSU, found that the clogging mechanism is the simplest and most effective approach to use, although combining it with the biosurfactant technology achieved optimal oil recovery.

The OSU team used Shewanella oneidensis (MR-1) that causes bioclogging, and Bacillus mojavensis (JF-2) that produces biosurfactant and causes bioclogging.  The idea was to focus on MEOR mechanisms of interfacial tension reduction (via the biosurfactant) and bioclogging in water-wet micromodels.

The micromodels were flooded with an assortment of flooding solutions ranging from metabolically active bacteria, to nutrient limited bacteria, to dead inactive biomass in order to assess the effectiveness of the proposed MEOR mechanisms of bioclogging and biosurfactant production.

Results of the experiments indicate tertiary flooding of the micromodel system with biomass and biosurfactant was optimal for oil recovery due to the combined effects of bioclogging of the pore-space and interfacial tension reduction. However, biosurfactant was only able to recover oil in some cases dependent on wettability. Biomass without biosurfactant that clogged the pore-space also successfully produced additional oil recovery.

The OSU team believes, and your humble writer agrees, a better fundamental understanding of this process – along with higher oil prices that better reward efforts to recover more oil – could lead to renewed interest in the technology on a commercial basis.

Then there is that cleanup angle . . . Either way or both – the research is pointing to a resumption of oil production from some really old fields and could very well equal or better all the oil produced so far.

By. Brian Westenhaus

Source: More Oil From Old Oil




Back to homepage


Leave a comment

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News