Microorganisms’ effect on the wettability of carbonate oil-wet surfaces: implications for MEOR, smart water injection and reservoir souring mitigation strategies

Moein Jahanbani Veshareh*, Shahab Ayatollahi

*Corresponding author for this work

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In upstream oil industry, microorganisms arise some opportunities and challenges. They can increase oil recovery through microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) mechanisms, or they can increase production costs and risks through reservoir souring process due to H2S gas production. MEOR is mostly known by bioproducts such as biosurfactant or processes such as bioclogging or biodegradation. On the other hand, when it comes to treatment of reservoir souring, the only objective is to inhibit reservoir souring. These perceptions are mainly because decision makers are not aware of the effect microorganisms’ cell can individually have on the wettability. In this work, we study the individual effect of different microorganisms’ cells on the wettability of oil-wet calcite and dolomite surfaces. Moreover, we study the effect of two different biosurfactants (surfactin and rhamnolipid) in two different salinities. We show that hydrophobe microorganisms can change the wettability of calcite and dolomite oil-wet surfaces toward water-wet and neutral-wet states, respectively. In the case of biosurfactant, we illustrate that the ability of a biosurfactant to change the wettability depends on salinity and its hydrophilic–hydrophobic balance (HLB). In distilled water, surfactin (high HLB) can change the wettability to a strongly water-wet state, while rhamnolipid only changes the wettability to a neutral-wet state (low HLB). In the seawater, surfactin is not able to change the wettability, while rhamnolipid changes the wettability to a strongly water-wet state. These results help reservoir managers who deal with fractured carbonate reservoirs to design a more effective MEOR plan and/or reservoir souring treatment strategy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Petroleum Exploration and Production Technology
Pages (from-to)1539–1550
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Microbial enhanced oil recovery
  • Reservoir souring
  • Fractured carbonate reservoirs
  • Wettability alteration
  • Bacteria cells
  • Smart water injection

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