Use of Biosurfactants in Oil Recovery

  • Guoqiang Li
  • Michael J. McInerney
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Biosurfactant-mediated oil recovery has the potential to recover large amounts of crude oil that remain entrapped in oil reservoirs after current oil recovery technologies reach their economic limit. Lipopeptides (surfactins and lichenysins), rhamnolipids, and other glycolipids generate the low interfacial tensions and the appropriate rock wettabilities needed to mobilize entrapped oil. Biosurfactants are active over a wide range of temperatures, pH values, and salinities found in many oil reservoirs and are effective at low concentrations. A number of laboratory experiments show that biosurfactant-mediated oil recovery is effective in recovering large amounts of entrapped oil. Several field trials show that in situ biosurfactant production is possible and recovers additional oil. Biosurfactant-mediated oil recovery has been difficult to scale-up to a reservoir-wide technology due to the lack of understanding of how best to stimulate biosurfactant production in the reservoir. In addition, the relationship between biosurfactant concentration and oil recovery is still unclear. Ex-situ biosurfactant-mediated oil recovery where the biosurfactant is added to the injection fluids has not been implemented on a large scale, most likely due to the high production costs of biosurfactants. Multidisciplinary approaches are needed to move biosurfactant-mediated oil recovery from the laboratory to the reservoir.



MJM was supported by contract DE-FG02-96ER20214 from Physical Biosciences Division, Office of Science, U. S. Department of Energy. GL was supported by a scholarship from China Scholarship Council.


  1. Al-Sulaimani H, Al-Wahaibi Y, Al-Bahry S, Elshafie A, Al-Bemani A, Joshi S, Ayatollahi S (2012) Residual-oil recovery through injection of biosurfactant chemical surfactant, and mixtures of both under reservoir temperatures: induced-wettability and interfacial-tension effects. SPE Reserv Eval Eng 15:210–217CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvarado V, Manrique E (2010) Enhanced oil recovery: an update review. Energies 3:1529–1575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Al-Wahaibi Y, Joshi S, Al-Bahry S, Elshafie A, Al-Bemani A, Shibulal B (2014) Biosurfactant production by Bacillus subtilis B30 and its application in enhancing oil recovery. Colloids Surf B: Biointerfaces 114:324–333CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Amani H, Müller MM, Syldatk C, Hausmann R (2013) Production of microbial rhamnolipid by Pseudomonas aeruginosa MM1011 for ex situ enhanced oil recovery. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 170:1080–1093CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Armstrong RT, Wildenschild D (2012a) Microbial enhanced oil recovery in fractional-wet systems: a pore-scale investigation. Transp Porous Media 92:819–835CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Armstrong RT, Wildenschild D (2012b) Investigating the pore-scale mechanisms of microbial enhanced oil recovery. J Pet Sci Eng 94–95:155–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Banat IM, Makkar RS, Cameotra SS (2000) Potential commercial applications of microbial surfactants. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 53:495–508CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Banat IM, Franzetti A, Gandolfi I, Bestetti G, Martinotti MG, Fracchia L, Smyth TJ, Marchant R (2010) Microbial biosurfactants production, applications and future potential. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 87:427–444CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. Banat IM, Satpute SK, Cameotra SS, Patil R, Nyayanit NV (2014) Cost effective technologies and renewable substrates for biosurfactants' production. Front Microbiol 5:697. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2014.00697CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Chai L, Zhang F, She Y, Banat IM, Hou D (2015) Impact of a microbial-enhanced oil recovery field trial on microbial communities in a low-temperature heavy oil reservoir. Nat Environ Pollut Technol 14:455–462Google Scholar
  11. Chen HL, Chen YS, Juang RS (2008) Recovery of surfactin from fermentation broths by a hybrid salting-out and membrane filtration process. Sep Purif Technol 59:244–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Chitoui O, Dimitrov K, Gancel F, Dhulster P, Nikov I (2012) Rotating discs bioreactor, a new tool for lipopeptides production. Process Biochem 47:2020–2024CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coutte F, Lecouturier D, Yahia LV, Béchet M, Jacques P, Dhulster P (2010) Production of surfactin and fengycin by Bacillus subtilis in a bubbleless membrane bioreactor. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 87:499–507CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Daniel HJ, Reuss M, Syldatk C (1998) Production of sophorolipids in high concentration from deproteinized whey and rapeseed oil in a two stage fed batch process using Candida bombicola ATCC 22214 and Cryptococcus curvatus ATCC 20509. Biotechnol Lett 20:1153–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Darvishi P, Ayatollahi S, Mowla D, Niazi A (2011) Biosurfactant production under extreme environmental conditions by an efficient microbial consortium, ERCPPI-2. Colloids Surf B: Biointerfaces 84:292–300CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. de Cássia FSSR, Darne G, Almeida DG, Rufino RD, Luna JM, Santos VA, Sarubbo LA (2014) Applications of biosurfactants in the petroleum industry and the remediation of oil spills. Int J Mol Sci 15:12523–12542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Doman LE (2016) International energy outlook 2016, DOE/EIA-0484. U. S. Energy Information Administration, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  18. Elshafie AE, Joshi SJ, Al-Wahaibi YM, Al-Bemani AS, Al-Bahry SN, Al-Maqbali D, Banat IM (2015) Sophorolipids production by Candida bombicola ATCC 22214 and its potential application in microbial enhanced oil recovery. Front Microbiol 6(1324). doi:10.3389/fmicb.2015.01324Google Scholar
  19. Fernandes PL, Rodriques EM, Paiva FR, Ayupe BAL, McInerney MJ, Tótola MR (2016) Biosurfactant, solvents, and polymer production by Bacillus subtilis RI4914 and their applications for enhanced oil recovery. Fuel 180:551–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Geys R, Soetaert W, Van Bogaert I (2014) Biotechnological opportunities in biosurfactant production. Curr Opin Biotechnol 30:66–72CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Giani C, Meiwes J, Rothert R, Wullbrandt D (1996) Pseudomonas aeruginosa and its use in a process for the biotechnological preparation of L-rhamnose.US Patent 5, 501, 966Google Scholar
  22. Gray M, Yeung A, Foght J, Yarranton, HW (2008) Potential microbial enhanced oil recovery processes: a critical analysis. In: Proceeding of the SPE Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, USA. SPE-114676-MS.Google Scholar
  23. Hall C, Tharakan P, Hallock J, Cleveland C, Jefferson M (2003) Hydrocarbons and the evolution of human culture. Nature 426:318–322CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Harner NK, Richardson TL, Thompson KA, Best RJ, Best AS, Trevors JT (2011) Microbial processes in the Athabasca Oil Sands and their potential applications in microbial enhanced oil recovery. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 38:1761–1775CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Helmy Q, Kardena E, Funamizu N, Wisjnuprapto (2011) Strategies toward commercial scale of biosurfactant production as potential substitute for its chemically counterparts. Int J Biometeorol 12:66–86Google Scholar
  26. Huang L, Yu L, Luo Z, Song S, Bo H, Zheng C (2014) A microbial-enhanced oil recovery trial in Huabei Oilfield in China. Pet Sci Technol 32:584–592CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Joshi S, Bharucha C, Jha S, Yadav S, Nerurkar A, Desai AJ (2008) Biosurfactant production using molasses and whey under thermophilic conditions. Bioresour Technol 99:195–199CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Joshi SJ, Geetha SJ, Desai AJ (2015) Characterization and application of biosurfactant produced by Bacillus licheniformis R2. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 177:346–361CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Kryachko Y, Semler D, Vogrinetz J, Lemke M, Links MG, McCarthy EL, Haung B, Hemmingsen SM (2016) Enrichment and identification of biosurfactant-producing oil field microbiota utilizing electron acceptors other than oxygen and nitrate. J Biotechnol 231:9–15CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Le JJ, XL W, Wang R, Zhang JY, Bai LL, Hou ZW (2015) Progress in pilot testing of microbial-enhanced oil recovery in the Daqing oilfield of north China. Int Biodeterior Biodegrad 97:188–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Li Q, Kang C, Wang H, Liu C, Zhang C (2002) Application of microbial enhanced oil recovery technique to Daqing Oilfield. Biochem Eng J 11:197–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li G, Gao P, Wu Y, Tian H, Dai X, Wang Y, Cui Q, Zhang H, Pan X, Dong H, Ma T (2014) Microbial abundance and community composition influence production performance in a low-temperature petroleum reservoir. Environ Sci Technol 48:5336–5344CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Li CF, Li Y, Li XM, Cao YB, Song YT (2015) The application of microbial enhanced oil recovery technology in Shengli Oilfield. Petrol Sci Technol 33:556–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lin SC, Minton MA, Sharma MM, Georgiou G (1994) Structural and immunological characterization of a biosurfactant produced by Bacillus licheniformis JF-2. Appl Environ Microbiol 60:31–38PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu J, Lijun M, Mu B, Liu R, Ni F, Zhou J (2005) The field pilot of microbial enhanced oil recovery in a high temperature petroleum reservoir. J Pet Sci Eng 48:265–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Liu JH, Chen YT, Li H, Jia YP, Xu RD, Wang J (2015) Optimization of fermentation conditions for biosurfactant production by Bacillus subtilis strains CTCC M201163 from oilfield wastewater. Environ Prog Sust Energy 34:548–554CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Makkar RS, Cameotra SS, Banat IM (2011) Advances in utilization of renewable substrates for biosurfactant production. AMB Express 1:5CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  38. McInerney MJ, Youssef N, Nagle DP (2009) Lipopeptide biosurfactants and their use in oil recovery. In: Ashby R, Solaiman D, Kitamoto D (eds) Bio–based surfactants and detergents: synthesis, properties, and applications. American Oil Chemists Society, Urbana, pp 129–153Google Scholar
  39. Nazina TN, Griror’yan AA, Feng Q, Shestakova NM, Babich TL, Pavlova NK, Ivoilov VS, Ni F, Wang J, She Y, Xiang T, Mei B, Luo Z, Belyaev SS, Ivanov MV (2007) Microbiological and production characteristics of the high-temperature Kongdian petroleum reservoir revealed during field trial of biotechnology for the enhancement of oil recovery. Microbiology 76:297–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Nazina TN, Pavlova NK, Ni F, Shestakova NM, Ivoilov VS, Feng Q, Dongyun Z, Prusakova TS, Belyaev SS, Ivanov MV (2008) Regulation of geochemical activity of microorganisms in a petroleum reservoir buy injection of H2O2 or water-air mixture. Microbiology 77:324–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Nikolov V, Farag I, Nikov I (2000) Gas-liquid mass transfer in bioreactor with TPIFB. Bioprocess Eng 23:427–429CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Patel J, Borgohain S, Kumar M, Rangarajan V, Somasundaran P, Sen R (2015) Recent developments in microbial enhanced oil recovery. Renew Sust Energ Rev 52:1539–1558CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pruthi V, Cameotra SS (2000) Novel sucrose lipid produced by Serratia marcescens and its application in enhanced oil recovery. J Surf Deter 3:533–537CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rabiei A, Sharifinik M, Niazi A, Hashemi A, Ayatollahi S (2013) Core flooding tests to investigate the effects of IFT reduction and wettability alteration on oil recovery during MEOR process in an Iranian oil reservoir. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 97:5979–5991CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Salehizadeh H, Mohammadizad S (2009) Microbial enhanced oil recovery using biosurfactant produced by Alcaligenes faecalis. Iran J Biotechnol 7:216–223Google Scholar
  46. Santos DKF, Rufino RD, Luna JM, Santos VA, Sarubbo LA (2016) Biosurfactants: multifunctional biomolecules of the 21st Century. Int J Mol Sci 17:401. doi:10.3390/ijms17030401CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Sarafzadeh P, Hezave AZ, Ravanbakhsh M, Niazi A, Ayatollahi S (2013) Enterobacter cloacae as biosurfactant producing bacterium: differentiating its effects on interfacial tension and wettability alteration mechanisms for oil recovery during MEOR process. Colloids Surf B: Biointerfaces 105:223–229CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Sen R (ed) (2010) Biosurfactants. Landes Bioscience and Springer Science+Business Media, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  49. Shavandi M, Mohebali G, Haddadi A, Shakarami H, Nuhi A (2011) Emulsification potential of a newly isolated biosurfactant-producing bacterium, Rhodococcus sp. strain TA6. Colloids Surf B: Biointerfaces 82:477–482CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Sheng J (2010) Modern chemical enhanced oil recovery: theory and practice. Gulf Professional Publishing, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
  51. Shibulal B, Al-Bahry SN, Al-Wahaibi YM, Elshafie AE, Al-Bemani AS, Joshi SJ (2014) Microbial enhanced heavy oil recovery by the aid of inhabitant spore-forming bacteria: an insight review. The Scientific World J. doi:10.1155/2014/309159Google Scholar
  52. Siegert M, Sitte J, Galushko A, Krüger M (2014) Starting up microbial enhanced oil recovery. Adv Biochem Eng Biotechnol 142:1–94PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Simpson DR, Natraj N, McInerney MJ, Duncan KE (2011) Biosurfactant-producing Bacillus spp. are present in produced brines from Oklahoma oil reservoirs with a wide range of salinities. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 91:1083–1093CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Xia WJ, Luo ZB, Dong HP, Yu L, Cui QF, Bi YQ (2012) Synthesis, characterization, and oil recovery application of biosurfactant produced by indigenous Pseudomonas aeruginosa WJ-1 using waste vegetable oils. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 166:1148–1166CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Yakimov MM, Abraham WR, Meyer H, Giuliano L, Golyshin PN (1999) Structural characterization of lichenysin A components by fast atom bombardment tandem mass spectrometry. Biochim Biophys Acta 1438:273–280CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Youssef N, Nguyen T, Sabatini DA, McInerney MJ (2007a) Basis for formulating biosurfactant mixtures to achieve ultra low interfacial tension values against hydrocarbons. J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 34:497–507CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Youssef N, Simpson DR, Duncan KE, McInerney MJ, Folmsbee M, Fincher T, Knapp RM (2007b) In situ biosurfactant production by Bacillus strains injected into a limestone petroleum reservoir. Appl Environ Microbiol 73:1239–1247CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  58. Youssef N, Elshahed MS, McInerney MJ (2009) Microbial processes in oil fields: culprits, problems, and opportunities. Adv Appl Microbiol 66:141–251CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  59. Youssef N, Simpson DR, McInerney MJ, Duncan KE (2013) In-situ lipopeptide biosurfactant production by Bacillus strains correlates with improved oil recovery in two oil wells approaching their economic limit of production. Int Biodeterior Biodegrad 81:127–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Zheng C, Yu L, Huang L, Xiu J, Huang Z (2012) Investigation of a hydrocarbon-degrading strain, Rhodococcusruber Z25, for the potential of microbial enhanced oil recovery. J Petrol. Sci Eng 81:49–56Google Scholar
  61. Zhu Z, Zhang F, Wei Z, Ran W, Shen Q (2013) The usage of rice straw as a major substrate for the production of surfactin by Bacillus amyloliquefaciens XZ-173 in solid-state fermentation. J Environ Manag 127:96–102CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Zou C, Wang M, Xing Y, Lan G, Ge T, Yan X, Gu T (2014) Characterization and optimization of biosurfactants produced by Acinetobacter baylyi ZJ2 isolated from crude oil-contaminated soil sample toward microbial enhanced oil recovery applications. Biochem Eng J 90:49–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of MicrobiologyNankai UniversityTianjinChina
  2. 2.Department of Microbiology and Plant BiologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA

Personalised recommendations