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Biotechnology seen as new frontier in oil and gas industry

Jul 28
08:07 2014

"Biotechnology is a new technology that is certainly at the beginning of what it can do," stated Dr. Dennis Schneider, vice president of research and development at Micro-Bac International and adjunct professor of microbiology at the University Texas at Austin. He listed its benefits as being a greener product that is safe and reduces environmental liability and offers performance advantages.

He was in Midland recently to discuss the use of microbes in controlling hydrogen sulfide at a luncheon sponsored by Southwest Microbial Solutions.

The gas is toxic and can cause fatalities in high concentrations, but those high levels also can affect the price of an operator's production and cause significant corrosion of production equipment. It can occur geochemically and biologically, which can be controlled by various means.

Herb Collier, co-owner and general manager of Southwest Microbial, said H2S is generated by sulfate-reducing bacteria, which are often introduced into oil and gas reservoirs, almost always from the water used in drilling operations.

Those SRBs, said Schneider, are "tough bacteria that have been around billions of years." Controlling them is challenging because they are diverse with a lot of different groupings, he said. That diversity, he said, can offer solutions to eliminating the bacteria.

He likened the research into controlling various SRBs to the effort to find treatments for the MRSA -- methicillin-resistantStaphylococcus aureus -- infection several years ago.

Biologic solutions, he said, are environmentally benign, very effective and affordable. The first application was in Kansas' Hugoton field and locally one of the first treatments was in the Chickadee field, which was treated in December 2011.

Such solutions, Schneider said, are applicable in producing wells, storage tanks and waterfloods.

Biotechnology, Schneider said, is gaining acceptance among oil and gas operators. But, he said, a lot of growth still needs to take place and more penetration within the industry is needed.

"We need people to get the word out" about the benefits of biotechnology, he said. "That's been a hindrance to growth."

By : Mella McEwen

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