How Specific Microbial Communities Benefit the Oil Industry: Biorefining and Bioprocessing for Upgrading Petroleum Oil

  • Ajay Singh
Conference paper


Recent advances in molecular biology of microbes have made possible in exploring and engineering improved biocatalysts (microbes and enzymes) suitable for the oil biorefining and recovery processes (Monticello, 2000; Van Hamme et al., 2003; Kilbane, 2006). Crude oil contains about 0.05–5% sulphur, 0.5–2.1% nitrogen and heavy metals such as nickel and vanadium associated with the asphaltene fraction. High temperature- and pressure-requiring expensive hydrotreatment processes are generally used to remove sulphur and nitrogen compounds from petroleum. Biorefining processes to improve oil quality have gained lots of interest and made a significant progress in the last two decades (Le Borgne and Quintero, 2003) and is the focus of this chapter.


Acinetobacter Calcoaceticus Rhodococcus Erythropolis Asphaltene Fraction High Molecular Weight Hydrocarbon Sole Sulphur Source 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.




The use of enzymes to perform chemical transformations on organic compounds.


The process whereby a compound is decomposed by natural biological activity.


Use of microorganisms or enzymes to remove metals from petroleum products.


Use of microorganisms or biologically produced chemicals for breaking of oil–water emulsions to separate oil, water and solids phases.


Use of microorganisms or enzymes to remove nitrogen atoms from petroleum products.


Use of microorganisms or enzymes to remove sulphur atoms from petroleum products.


The use of microbial, plant or animal cells for the production of chemical compounds.


A process of purification of natural substances (e.g. oil, cellulosic materials, metals) for more usable form using biological means.


Surface-active substances synthesised by living cells, having the properties of reducing surface tension, stabilising emulsions and promoting foaming.


The chemical modification made by an organism on a chemical compound.

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering, recombinant DNA technology and genetic modification are terms that apply to the direct manipulation of structure and characteristics of genes.


A catalytic chemical process widely used to remove sulphur (S) from petroleum products.

Protein engineering

Protein engineering is the process of developing useful or valuable proteins using either detailed knowledge of the structure and function of the protein or random mutagenesis and DNA shuffling.


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Copyright information

© Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Lystek International Inc.WaterlooCanada

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