Maersk researches bio-solutions to enhance oil recovery

Source: Maersk Oil

Could hungry bacteria increase oil recovery in the Danish North Sea? Do Scandinavian beetles have the solution to frozen gas pipelines? Maersk Oil has joined several Danish companies and institutions to find out in a 4-year joint research project called BioRec. 

The project aims to increase oil recovery and prolong operations in the Danish North Sea by tapping into the science of biotechnology to create efficient, viable and environmentally safe solutions to the challenges of mature oil and gas fields. 

Although exploration work continues in the Danish North Sea, many large fields were discovered several decades ago, presenting problems specific to these assets such as changing reservoir conditions and aging infrastructure. 

Globally, over half of oil in reservoirs is left behind when fields are abandoned. So, the challenge is finding ways to access the remaining oil that has become hard to reach, or to maintain the economic viability of operating assets that produce decreasing amount of oil. 

BioRec seeks to discover some of these ways.
Enhanced Oil Recovery may be possible in Danish North Sea by injecting bacteria. The bacteria feed and grow in the reservoir, changing the oil composition to improve its flow. Enzymes could be added to hurry the process along. The amount of additional oil recovered thanks to this process could be as high as in CO2-based EOR – 5-15 percentage points above the average 30 percent of total oil in a reservoir that is typically extracted – but with lower costs. 

Microbiologically Induced Corrosion of pipelines could be controlled by limiting bacterial growth through enzymes and other bacteria. Such corrosion can be dangerous and cause environmental damage, while mending pipelines after the damage is caused is costly and involves shutdowns. 

Hydrate inhibition is the process of stopping ice structures forming inside pipelines and wells due to temperature and pressure conditions. Instead of using chemicals, researchers are interested in animal-based proteins produced by coldwater fish or Scandinavian beetles that keep them from freezing, which could be the basis of a more environmentally friendly and cost-effective solution. 

BioRec was created by Maersk Oil, the Danish Advanced Technology Foundation (Højteknologifonden), global biotech company Novozymes, oil company DONG E&P and three institutions – the Technical University of Denmark, the Danish Technological Institute and the Roskilde University. 

Maersk Oil, Novozymes, DONG E&P and Højteknologifonden will contribute funds, expertise and materials to the academic institutions, which in turn will carry out research on several predefined issues and find commercially viable solutions. 

BioRec’s ultimate aim is to be technically able to implement pilot tests at relevant reservoirs in the Danish North Sea at the end of the four-year period based on the results of its research.

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