3° Oil Recovery: Fundamental Approaches and Principles of Microbially Enhanced Oil Recovery
Microbially enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) involves the use of microbes in petroleum reservoirs to enhance the amount of oil that can be produced. The microbes in MEOR are typically hydrocarbon-utilizing, nonpathogenic microorganisms that naturally occur in the reservoirs or are introduced. The microbes use hydrocarbons as a food source for their metabolic processes and excrete natural bio-products such as alcohols, gases, acids, surfactants, and polymers. These bio-products can change the physical-chemical properties of crude oils and/or modify oil-water-rock interactions that improve oil recovery.
An important requirement for devising an appropriate MEOR strategy is a clear understanding of the problem that needs to be addressed from a reservoir engineering point of view. In situ production of biopolymers is most suitable to address water channeling problems in heterogeneous reservoirs, while surfactant-, gas-, acid-, and alcohol-producing microbes may be more suitable for enhancing production from reservoirs where residual oil is trapped due to capillary forces. Ex situ production of chemicals, e.g., biosurfactants from bioreactors for injection in wells, offers the advantage of being more controllable.
We wish acknowledge all members of the MEOR team at CSIRO for many years of joint research.
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