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 Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

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: Physicists Design Ultrafocused Pulses

Physicists working with researcher Oriol Romero-Isart devised a new simple scheme to theoretically generate arbitrarily short and focused electromagnetic fields. This new tool could be used for precise sensing and in microscopy.

Microwaves, heat radiation, light and X-radiation are examples for electromagnetic waves. Many applications require to focus the electromagnetic fields to...

Im Focus: Carbon Nanotubes Turn Electrical Current into Light-emitting Quasi-particles

Strong light-matter coupling in these semiconducting tubes may hold the key to electrically pumped lasers

Light-matter quasi-particles can be generated electrically in semiconducting carbon nanotubes. Material scientists and physicists from Heidelberg University...

Im Focus: Flexible proximity sensor creates smart surfaces

Fraunhofer IPA has developed a proximity sensor made from silicone and carbon nanotubes (CNT) which detects objects and determines their position. The materials and printing process used mean that the sensor is extremely flexible, economical and can be used for large surfaces. Industry and research partners can use and further develop this innovation straight away.

At first glance, the proximity sensor appears to be nothing special: a thin, elastic layer of silicone onto which black square surfaces are printed, but these...

Im Focus: 3-D scanning with water

3-D shape acquisition using water displacement as the shape sensor for the reconstruction of complex objects

A global team of computer scientists and engineers have developed an innovative technique that more completely reconstructs challenging 3D objects. An ancient...

Im Focus: Manipulating Electron Spins Without Loss of Information

Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.

For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

Closing the Sustainability Circle: Protection of Food with Biobased Materials

21.07.2017 | Event News

»We are bringing Additive Manufacturing to SMEs«

19.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Programming cells with computer-like logic

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Identified the component that allows a lethal bacteria to spread resistance to antibiotics

27.07.2017 | Life Sciences

Malaria Already Endemic in the Mediterranean by the Roman Period

27.07.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>