Experimental Study of Bacterial Penetration into Chalk Rock: Mechanisms and Effect on Permeability

Amalia Yunita Halim, Alexander Shapiro, Anna Eliasson Lantz, Sidsel Marie Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Bacterial selective plugging is one of the mechanisms through which microorganisms can be applied for enhanced oil recovery, as bacteria can plug the water-swept zones of a reservoir, thus altering the flow paths and improving sweep efficiency. However, complete understanding of the penetration behavior of bacteria is lacking, especially in chalk formations where characteristic pore throat sizes are comparable with the sizes of bacterial cells. In this study, two bacterial strains, Bacillus licheniformis 421 (spore-forming) and Pseudomonas putida K12 (non-spore forming) were used to investigate the penetration of bacteria into chalk and its effect on permeability reduction. The core plugs were produced from Stevns Klint outcrop with low permeability (2–4 mD) and with pore sizes comparable to bacterial sizes. Both types of bacteria were able to penetrate and to be transported through the cores to some extent. A significantly higher number of B. licheniformis 421 was detected in the effluents as compared to P. putida K12. It was demonstrated that the spore-forming B. licheniformis 421 penetrates in the form of spores. P. putida K12 is found to penetrate the core, however, in smaller numbers compared to B. licheniformis. It was shown that both bacteria, under different injection concentrations, were capable of plugging the porous rock, as indicated by reduction of the core permeability. An incubation period of 12 days did not allow the permeability to return to initial condition. Based on the results it can be concluded that, when injected into chalk, spore forming bacteria have higher chance to survive and penetrate into deeper formation; and both types of bacteria may cause permeability reduction.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransport in Porous Media
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-15
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Microbial-enhanced oil recovery
  • Flow experiments
  • Chalk rock
  • Permeability reduction
  • Penetration


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