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Microbiology petri dishMicrobiology plays a key role in petroleum industry operations. This is demonstrated in the upstream sector by the fields of reservoir microbiology, microbially enhanced oil recovery and issues such as reservoir souring. Downstream there are implications for product storage and fuel quality, but also benefits brought about by bioremediation and biotreatment methods. Furthermore industrial microbiology is an important consideration for health and safety e.g. Legionaires disease and hydrogen sulphide production.   

The Energy Institute's Microbiology Committee (EIMC) takes a leading role in defining and disseminating good practice and promoting improved understanding of industrial microbiology across the whole sector. In doing this, the EIMC supports novel research, provides technical guidance and is responsible for advising on standard microbiological test methods.

The EIMC also defines the technical content of the Reservoir Microbiology Forum (RMF). For more information on the RMF please click here.

Current work activities

Update of the Nitrate document -
The 1st publication of the Energy Institute technical publication on 'The stimulation of Nitrate-reducing Bacteria (NRB) oilfield systems to control SRB activity, microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) and reservoir souring: An Introductory Review' was published in 2003 at which time the technology was used on very few installations. Since then nitrate treatment is increasingly being used and there are now many papers, reports and presentations in the public domain which describe field applications and pilot and laboratory investigations which cover aspects on reservoir souring control and corrosion mitigation. The updated and expanded document will provide a practical resource allowing the assessment of the technology for new applications and highlighting issues from previous applications.

Biocides - The aim of this project is to produce guidance for the oil and energy industries to optimise biocide selection and use by reviewing the types of biocides used in the oil industry and also by discussing the scope and impact of new regulations. This will enable the users to assess the long term implications of regulation on their operations and, where appropriate, identify alternative microbial control agents or strategies.

Biofuels - This on-going project aims to investigate the susceptibility of biodiesel and biodiesel blends to microbial growth.

Phase one of the biofuels project 'EI literature review: Implications of biofuels on microbial spoilage and corrosion within the fuel distribution chain and end use' has been published and is available from the publishing website.

Following the identification of knowledge gaps and subsequent recommendations from the literature review, a microbiology laboratory study was commissioned to analyse test blends of biodiesel and bioethanol.

Once the laboratory study is completed, a second phase of laboratory research will commence to establish a better understanding of the relationship between microbiological contamination in biodiesel fuels and water content. The influence of various water contents on microbial growth and the relationship between dissolved water, suspended free water and settled free water will be investigated using microcosms of FAME blend diesel fuel with varying water content and inoculated with low levels of microorganisms.

Review of EI Guidelines for microbial contamination of fuel - Since the last update of Guidelines for the investigation of the microbial content of petroleum fuels and for the implementation of avoidance and remedial strategies, the increased use of FAME in antomotive diesels has had a dramatic impact on the susceptibility of fuels to microbial growth. Once growth has started, these communities can rapidly lead to biofilms that can coat tank walls, plug fuel supply filters and even lead to corrosion. The update will include specific recommendations for good housekeeping practices for fuels containing FAME and remedial strategies.

Recently published documents

A practical evaluation of 21st century microbiological techniques for the upstream oil and gas industry - This reports aims to compare traditional oil industry microbiological techniques with molecular microbiological methods (MMM). A variety of samples were collected and analysed from 3 oil production platforms and an assessment was made on the strengths and weaknesses of each technique in relation to the oil industry requirements.

Microbiology Technical Bulletin - This has been produced by the EIMC to provide guidance to industry on microbial growth in diesels and other fuels containing FAME. The following questions are addressed in the bulletin:

  • What fuels are affected?
  • What characteristics of FAME make it susceptible to microbial growth?
  • What additional measures can be taken to prevent occurance of microbial growth?

To download the Microbiology Technical Bulletin please click here.

The effects of alcohols and kinetic hydrate inhibitors in gas pipelines on the risk of microbial-influenced corrosion (MIC) presents the results of a laboratory study to ascertain the risk of MIC in wet gas lines. It details the biocidal and bacteriostatic effects of various concentrations of common alcohols and kinetic hydrate inhibitors used in gas pipelines which in turn will enable more reliable corrosion risk assessments for MIC in gas pipelines.

Fluorescent in situ Hybridisation (FISH) probes as routine monitors of bacterial populations in oilfield systems aims to demonstrate the suitability of FISH technique for oilfield samples in the laboratory and as field test (quantitative and qualitative) to advance oilfield microbiology monitoring.

For more information on relevant publications click here.

If you would like more information on the work of the Microbiology Committee or are interested in becoming an active member of the Committee, please contact Kerry Sinclair e: