Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Small bacteria – big money

29.01.2008
Bacteria in oil reservoirs produce give more oil.

They are tiny, and they eat oil. Still, they are the ones that can help us obtain more underwater black gold. Oil-eating bacteria will be used to detect oil that cannot be recovered by other methods and make the route out of reservoirs smoother. The method is called ‘Microbial Improved Oil Recovery’ shortened to MIOR.

Researchers at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) have made comprehensive studies of the MIOR method and have tested the effect of different varieties on the level of oil recovery.

- The winner of the tests is the Non-Surfactant Producing Bacteria, says Research Fellow Christian Crescente. It increased oil recovery by 4.2 per cent. The most important kind of testing is still to discover how these mechanisms can lead to an increase in oil recovery using bacteria.

If we understand what is happening, we can make plans and have fewer surprises when we start using bacteria in real reservoirs. We have to remember that surprises are expensive in the oil business. On the other hand one per cent higher oil recovery from Norwegian operative oil fields represents an estimated gross value of 300 billion Norwegian kroner.

Changing the drainage

The process of recovering oil requires a lot more than a long straw down to the bottom of the sea. The oil deposits are in porous rock. When the reservoir is initially breached, the oil will come out almost by itself, just like puncturing a balloon filled with water. As pressure in the reservoirs falls, the oil has to be assisted usually by water that is being pumped into the reservoir.

- Just as rivers find their way through the landscape, water will find its way through the reservoir. This means that oil that is beyond the well drainage will not surface from the reservoir, says Christian Crescente.

This is where the bacteria appear.
- We imagine that will they change the reservoir drainage and find their way to oil that was unrecoverable before, says the scientist.

Making drops slippery

This is only one of the effects oil-eating bacteria may have. Even though we normally think of oil in large barrels, it originally consists of numerous tiny drops in water-filled rock. The drops are so tiny that it is difficult to rinse them out with water.

- The tension in the surface of the oil drops causes them to be caught up in the pores of the rock like a blown-up balloon in a net, explains Christian Crescente, at the Department of Petroleum Engineering and Applied Geophysics, NTNU.

– But, when the bacteria eat some of the surface of the oil drops and this makes them more buoyant, just like soaping a balloon so that it could slip through the net mesh.

Bacteria also change the pore wall of the reservoir, and this makes it easier for the oil to flow through. In addition gases are created, which cause increased pressure in the reservoir, and this again makes it easier for the oil surface.

- A chain of chemical reactions occurs, which contribute to make the reservoir more slippery, explains Christian Crescente. This means that there will be more oil coming up.

Right kind, right method

There are already some types of bacteria in a reservoir, but bacteria can also be inserted and be successfully cultivated. It is important to do research on the specific bacteria that are going to be used in these reservoirs. Oil exists in different kinds of rock which need different kinds of bacteria.

It is all about cultivating the right kind of bacteria and in the right amount. The reservoir functions as its own ecosystem, and if the supply of nutrient is controlled the bacteria will multiply in number and speed.

Many advantages

Compared to other methods of oil recovery MIOR has plenty of advantages. It is cheaper than other methods. It can be used in most kinds of reservoirs. The chemicals that are needed can be made on the spot; in the reservoirs, and chemicals that can be added are cheap and easily available. The method requires minimal extra logistics and is therefore easy to use offshore.

Cheap, but difficult

The method has been in use in many parts of the world, with mixed experience. Lacking both knowledge and planning has barred the good results. Although the method is cheap it is also difficult. Knowledge about how the different types of bacteria function inside the various kinds of rocks that contain oil is the key to obtain a good degree of oil recovery.

- In the Norwegian sector Statoil Hydro has a MIOR project in the Norne fields. Nothing is published about it, so I do not know anything about the results, says Christian Crescente, - but this is an ongoing project, and I assume they have come up with some interesting data.

The goal is 70 per cent

The focus on technology improvements in the Norwegian sector has caused a yearly increase in the percentage of oil recovery. Early in the 1990s one estimated that 35 per cent oil recovery was possible, but it is 46 per cent today. The goal is that the oil recovery rate is to increase even more in the years to get and come close to 70 per cent.

By Hege J. Tunstad/The Reseach Magazine Gemini

Christian Crescente | alfa
Further information:
http://www.ipt.ntnu.no

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

nachricht A new indicator for marine ecosystem changes: the diatom/dinoflagellate index
21.08.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Ostseeforschung Warnemünde

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

Im Focus: Quantum Sensors Decipher Magnetic Ordering in a New Semiconducting Material

For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.

Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Rainbow colors reveal cell history: Uncovering β-cell heterogeneity

22.09.2017 | Life Sciences

Penn first in world to treat patient with new radiation technology

22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering

Calculating quietness

22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>