Microbes—Friends or Foes?

Date: 09/28/2012

The effects of microorganisms in reservoirs

Detected in the water of shallow reservoirs as early as the 1930s, microbes have an extensive history in the oil and gas industry. Scientists long believed that reservoir conditions were too hostile for microbes to thrive. That belief was changed in the 1960s when engineers learned that microbes in reservoirs were producing hydrogen sulfide. Scientists also witnessed biomass-based formation plugging attributable to microbes flourishing within reservoirs.

Bright side of microbes and oil production

In regards to the association of microbes in reservoirs, not all  experiences with microscopic organisms have been counter-productive. For instance, some operators discovered that injecting sugar-based materials, which microbes use as food, into reservoirs can increase production. More recently, new molecular analysis methods, coupled with increased knowledge of microbe identity and chemistry, have led to advances in combating microbiologically influenced corrosion and reservoir damage. Scientists are also using these advances to develop new methods for microbiologically enhanced oil recovery and bioremediation.

Controlling microbes for positive results

An article in the Summer 2012 issue of Oilfield Review, “Microbes—Oilfield Enemies or Allies?” includes case studies from Canada and the US that demonstrate how new techniques are being used to manage microorganisms during oilfield production. Analyses on microbes in the oil field have resulted in methods for controlling their negative effects and for taking advantage of their positive uses.

Read the full article by visiting the Oilfield Review Web site.


Augustinovic Z, Birketveit Ø, Clements K, Freeman M, Gopi S, Ishoey T, Jackson G, Kubala G, Larsen J, Marcotte BWG, Scheie J, Skovhus TL and Sunde E: “Microbes—Oilfield Enemies or Allies?,” Oilfield Review 24, no. 2 (Summer 2012): 4–17.


Microbes—Friends or Foes?
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