Microbial enhanced oil recovery—a modeling study of the potential of spore-forming bacteria

Sidsel Marie Nielsen, Igor Nesterov, Alexander Shapiro

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    Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) utilizes microbes for enhancing the recovery by several mechanisms, among which the most studied are the following: (1) reduction of oil-water interfacial tension (IFT) by the produced biosurfactant and (2) selective plugging by microbes and metabolic products. One of the ways of bacterial survival and propagation under harsh reservoir conditions is formation of spores. A model has been developed that accounts for bacterial growth, substrate consumption, surfactant production, attachment/filtering out, sporulation, and reactivation. Application of spore-forming bacteria is an advantageous novelty of the present approach. The mathematical setup is a set of 1D transport equations involving reactions and attachment. Characteristic sigmoidal curves are used to describe sporulation and reactivation in response to substrate concentrations. The role of surfactant is modification of the relative permeabilities by decreasing the interfacial tension. Attachment of bacteria reduces the pore space available for flow, i.e., the effective porosity and permeability. Clogging of specific areas may occur. An extensive study of the MEOR on the basis of the developed model has resulted in the following conclusions. In order to obtain sufficient local concentrations of surfactant, substantial amounts of substrate should be supplied; however, massive growth of bacteria increases the risk for clogging at the well inlet areas, causing injectivity loss. In such areas, starvation may cause sporulation, reducing the risk of clogging. Substrate released during sporulation can be utilized by attached vegetative bacteria and they will continue growing and producing surfactant, which prolongs the effect of the injected substrate. The simulation scenarios show that application of the spore-forming bacteria gives a higher total production of surfactant and the reduced risk of clogging, leading to an increased period of production and a higher oil recovery.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalComputational Geosciences
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)567-580
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


    • Bacteria
    • Microbial enhanced oil recovery
    • Modeling
    • Spores
    • Surfactant


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