Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, Vol.104, No.3, 1035-1053, 2020
Oil reservoir simulating bioreactors: tools for understanding petroleum microbiology
Various aspects of the oil fields in terms of microbial activity (souring, biocorrosion, etc.) and oil production (polymer flooding, etc.) have been evaluated through a variety of experiments. The primary step to study these properties in the laboratory requires the construction and operation of up-flow oil reservoir simulating bioreactors (ORSBs) in real time. Souring by reduction of sulfate to sulfide is a major contributor in enhancing corrosion of metal infrastructure used for oil production and processing. Whether the injection of biocides prevents or remediates reservoir souring can be addressed by flooding up-flow ORSBs. The potential of biopolymers/biosurfactants produced by different microbial strains have also been investigated for the role in maintaining additional oil recovery using ORSB. Additionally, key issues of polymer behavior during flooding of reservoirs could be understood during laboratory studies by monitoring the in situ porous medium rheology. Besides, the change in various ORSB parameters helps in adjudging the effect of different biosurfactants/biopolymers in enhancing oil recovery. Parameters such as permeability reduction, adsorption, interaction with porous matrix, and formation damage can be evaluated using ORSB. The analysis of earlier studies indicated that running bioreactors for longer duration of time can help in drawing conclusion with sharpness and less ambiguity. The current review discusses the construction and application of various types of ORSBs including the experimental studies employing ORSBs.