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Bacteria keep tabs on state of oil field
Date:10/7/2010

The ups and downs of the bacteria in an oil field provide a useful source of information for keeping tabs on the state of the oil field itself. In theory, this process known as 'biomonitoring' can increase the yield from an oil field. This is the conclusion reached by Geert van der Kraan, who obtained his doctorate on this topic at TU Delft on Tuesday, 5 October.

Seawater

Oil fields are highly specific ecosystems. For instance, they contain no oxygen and the temperature, pressure and salinity are often high. This means that oil fields are home to a very particular community of bacteria. The exploitation of oil fields gives rise to a great many changes. In order to obtain more oil from a field, methods such as pumping seawater into the field are used in order to flush through the oil. Seawater injection has a number of effects, such as the introduction of sulphate. This changes the composition of the bacteria populations in the oil field. Bacteria that reduce sulphate thrive, prompting the release of hydrogen sulphide, which is not only toxic but also has an adverse effect on the quality of the oil and damages the pipelines.

Information source

For this reason, these bacteria have always been closely monitored by the oil industry. For his doctorate research, Geert van der Kraan investigated whether a brand new step could be taken. He wanted to know whether the microbial changes (i.e. the types and quantity of bacteria present) could be used as an information source to track what is taking place in the oil field. This concept is known as biomonitoring. It is an approach that has the potential to boost oil exploitation or to prevent the production of harmful hydrogen sulphide at an early stage. This can be achieved by smart management of oil wells.

Positive indications

Geert van der Kraan has studied various Dutch oil fields, focusing on the microbial communities living there. "There are very positive ind
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Contact: Roy Meijer
r.e.t.meijer@tudelft.nl
31-152-781-751
Delft University of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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