Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) is an in situ process using microorganisms to increase yields from unproductive or aging oil wells. As in bioremediation processes, the indegenous microbial population is stimulated by addition of nutrients (biostimulation) and/or microbial consortium is pumped into oil reservoirs for production of gases (e.g., CH4, CO2 ) and sulfactants in situ. The produced gases and sulfactants alter the physicochemical association between oil and soil, improving the recovery from the oil reservoir. Although in situ pilot-scale applications were successful at low-temperature (~30 C) reservoirs, applicability of MEOR in mid- (~65C) to high- temperature (>90 C) reservoirs is largely unknown. Majority of oil reservoirs have temperatures within the unexplored range, so practical implementation of MEOR technology will require exploration into the microbiology in the extreme thermophilic environment at the oil deposits.
In collaboration with the GeoEnergy Laboratory (Prof. Tae-Hyuk Kwon) at KAIST and Prof. Gun-Sang Lee's laboratory at Hanyang University, we are investigating the microbial population in the mid-temperature oil reservoirs to develop biostimulation / bioaugmentation technique for MEOR. This research project is funded by KETEP (Korea Institute of Energy Technology and Evaluation and Planning)