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International Journal of Application or Innovation in

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Volume xxx, Issue xxx, August 2012
ISSN 2319 - 4847

Modeling the Effects of Microbes in a Reservoir


Undergoing Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery
Nmegbu, Chukwuma Godwin Jacob 1, Akpa G. Jackson2
1

Department of Petroleum Engineering, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Rivers State, Nigeria
nmegbu.godwin@ust.edu.ng

Department of Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering, Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Rivers State,
Nigeria

ABSTRACT
The need to maximize oil production from petroleum reservoirs has prompted the evaluation of several recovery techniques in
the oil and gas industry. The primary energy of a reservoir can only account for about 20 40% of the initial oil in place,
leaving quite a significant volume still residual in the reservoir. Microbial enhanced oil recovery is a tertiary recovery
technique utilizing the potential of certain microbes to significantly influence oil production from the reservoir with different
mechanisms of recovery. This study focuses on investigating oil recovery by increasing its mobility due to viscosity reduction as
a result of dissolved biogenic gases produced during microbe-oil reaction. Results showed that viscosity of a crude sample
initially at 27cp reduced to about 0.002cp as a result of the soluble biogenic gases produced by the microbe. A significant
increase in the oil permeability and cumulative oil production due to a reduced viscosity was also recorded.

Keywords: MEOR, Microbes, Solubility, Viscosity

1. INTRODUCTION
In 1926, Backman pioneered the discovery that certain microbes when grown in the presence of nutrients could free
oil from saturated porous media. Zobell whose experiment demonstrated the release of oil sand by certain sulfate
reducing bacteria, continued the work Beckman. He concluded that for microbes to degrade oil, certain metabolites
must the produced to alter the reservoir oil properties [1], [2]. Modeling the effects of microbes in a reservoir
undergoing microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery entails the development of a working mathematical presentation to
analyze and evaluate specified or the general recovery mechanisms of the microbes in a reservoir, having a
comprehensive mathematical interpretation for determining the incremental oil Recovery from MEOR application [3].
For a MEOR program, microbes are selected, cultured and injected into the reservoir as an alternative tertiary oil
recovery technology [4]. These microbes interact with the hydrocarbon in the reservoir to produce microbial metabolites
such as; biopolymers, biogases, bioacids, solvents, etc which reduces the interfacial tension, plug off area of high
permeable zones, re-pressurize the reservoir, which ultimately helps to improve the recovery of heavy or residual crude
oil from depleted and marginal reservoirs and extending the life of the field [1], [2], [3], [5].
In the past, microbes were considered detrimental to the petroleum industry, it is now ascertained that they are
beneficial in oil recovery [1], [4], [5], [6]. Petroleum and gas industry operators are currently in the quest for the
investigation of various means of maximizing the production of oil from reservoirs so as to cope with the increasing
demands of energy [7], [8]. According to oil and gas researchers, conventional oil production technologies are able to
recover only about one third of the oil originally in place (OOIP). In the United States of American, it is estimated that
over 300 billion barrels of oil remain un-recovered after conventional technologies reached their economic limit,
inexpensive, new technologies and expertise to recover this significant volume of residual oil are often unavailable and
as such threatens the recovery from these reserves [8]. Microbial enhanced oil recovery involves the application of
microbes and or the exploration of microbial metabolic processes and products to increase production of residual or
heavy oil from reservoirs. Microbes degrades the hydrocarbon by breaking the hydrogen into smaller molecules, thereby
increasing its mobility as a result of reduction in viscosity. This study focuses of the effects of oil-dissolved biogenic
gases produced by the microbes in the reservoir after microbial-oil interaction for viscosity reduction and improved
heavy crude mobility.

2. METHODOLOGY
2.1 Choice of microbes
The production of biogenic gases creates a free gas phase that can account for incremental oil Recovery in MEOR
process either by reduction of the oil viscosity when these produced gases go into solution or by re-pressurization of the
reservoir causing displacement from trapped capillaries and enhancing mobilization of oil to the producing wells. Gas
producing microbes are; clostridium, Desulfovibrio, Pseudomonas, and methanogens. Their morphologies confirm
their ability to produce bio acids and a higher proportion of biogases. Carbon dioxide, hydrogen, methane and nitrogen

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are some of these gases evolved after the microbe-oil reaction. For this study, pseudomonas proved suitable for the
investigation used on the basis of its ability to produce quite a significant percentage of biogases with a negligible
percentage of other metabolites.
2.2 Biochemical reactions of microbes
The biochemical reactions leading to improving heavy residual oil recovery are intricate and proceeds via multiple inter
and intra-molecular reactions involving de-polymerization, desulfurization, de-nitrification, and de-metalation
pathways.
2.3 Derivation of solution biogenic gas model during MEOR
The purpose of this study is aimed at determining the fluid properties that are affected by certain metabolites. These
properties are then incorporated in the production equation to obtain the required model for residual or heavy oil
production using microbes.
Accounting for volume of produced biogenic gas;
Vg(P,T)MA =Volume of gas dispersed due to microbial Activities.
VL(P,T)MA = Volume of oil due to microbial Activities.
V*(P,T)MA = Volume of dispersed biogenic gas which evolved during biochemical reaction between the reservoir and
microorganisms.
MA = Microbial activity.
When P and T are dropped to Pref and T ref.
When assumed that only a mixture of liquid and dispersed gas exist and that the dispersed gas enters only through the
volume fraction (Vf)MA.

VFMA

VgMA

Vg

V V
g
L

V f VL


1 VL

(1)

MA

(2)

MA

VFMA = volume fraction of the dispersed biogenic gas due to microbial activities
VgMA = volume of biogenic gas due to microbial activities
VLMA = volume of liquid due to microbial activities
The dispersed biogas fraction (Vf) from a solution of dissolved biogas in oil at any P and T is then determine by

V*
RSmA
VL P,T MA
where RS biogenic gas solubility
but
P Pr ef Y T RS
Where

(3)

(4)

(5)

(4)

dp
dv

(6)

And
Pref is a small pressure at which a negligible amount of gas is dissolved in the oil.
To determine the relationship between P and (V f)mA at equilibrium, it is paramount to note that mass of gas is constant
and independent of P and T.
Thus:

M mA

Mg P, T Mc P, T MA

(7)

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Where
M mA Total mass of gas in the reservoir due to M A
M g Mass of gas evolved due to M A
M c Mass of condensed gas due to M A
Since, mass of condensed biogas (Mc) is constant when it is vaporized and also assuming that this Vapor is a perfect
gas. the EOS can be applied.
Thus:

Pv MA nRT MA

(8)

(7)

But

m
M
MRTref

: . Pr efV MA

(9)

MA

PV *
McmA
Rg Tref MA

(10)

Similarly

PVg

RT

M gmA

(11)

MA

Combining the equations above

PVg Pr efV *
MmA
RT MA R Tref MA

(12)

Also combining the above

PVg

M mA
RT

Pr ef
RTref

MA

P Pr ef

VLb
MA

(13)
Where M mA is the total mass of biogas dissolved in the oil at bubble point
Setting R = Rsb when Vg=0
From Pb -Pref = T Rsb
Where
Rsb gas solubility at bubble point.

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Since evaluation is taken at bubble point ,

V *
RsbMA
VLb mA

Pr ef
VLb
RTref

and M MA

(14)

Eliminating average biogas solubility

Pr ef
RTref

M MA

Pb Pr ef

VLb

(15)
Simplifying we have

Tref P
P Pr ef
Vg

T Pr ef

VL
mA

P Pr ef
b

VLb

mA

(16)
Due to gas evolution, volume of oil changes and its compressibility is small

VL ~ VLb

Where
VLb is the volume of oil at bubble point (Pb)
The terms proportional to Pref in equation (16)above subtracts out and replacing Vg with

Vf
Bg

1Vf

Pb P


MA

MA

(17)

Tref

,
T Pr ef

BgmA

MA

(18)
At this point, we assume that variation of temperature is small on an absolute scale
T
Thus the ratio
is slightly greater than one
Tref
From 18,
T MA P Pr ef
R sb
MA
(19)
Substituting equation (19) into equation (18) yield

Bg MA
(20)

Tref
T

b Pr ef
Pr ef R sb

MA

V f VL
1V f

gives:

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But Pb Pref in many practical situations therefore;

Bg MA

P b
Tref
T Pr ef R sb

MA

(21

Where Bg is the solubility parameter of the reservoir due to microbial activities.


When Vf and P satisfying 17 above vary at different point,
Then,
P 2
Pb 1 V f

PMA

V f
MA

(22)
Recall that by Darcys Law in a MEOR Process

U MA P
(23)

Where

K
mA

mA

(24)
Substitute equation (24) and (23) into (22) to obtain

K
P 2
Pb 1 V f

U MA

V f

MA

(25)
The gas solubility during the microbial activities in the reservoir helps to reduce interfacial Tension and Viscosity. The
evolved gas phase in the reservoir forms a gas cap, maintaining the pressure of the reservoir and preventing fast
depletion of reservoir energy, thus sustaining production for a longer period.
MEOR processes generate gases which dissolve and reduce the strength of the capillary and viscous forces which exist
fluid/fluid and fluid/rock interface. Depending on concentration of the biogases in the crude, two types of gas saturation
exist; namely sub-saturation and super-saturation.
Sub-saturation: Occurs when not enough biogas is available to dissolve in order to satisfy thermodynamic equilibrium
at prevailing reservoir pressure and temperature.
Super-saturation: This corresponds to having more biogases dissolved than there should be under thermodynamic
equilibrium. It occurs when the oil cannot evolve gas fast enough to keep up with the depressurization.
A bubble which might f0rm in the crude oil by the vaporization of dissolved gas at supersaturated condition can
expressed by;

PVap . P
Where

2
R

(26)

is the interfacial tension

From the above, interfacial Tension can be obtained as:

PVap P
MA R

MA

(27)

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Considering that the average liquid and gas velocities are equal, the mixture velocity is given by:

U mixt . MA U L U g MA

(28)

U L MA 1 Vf U L ma

(29)

U g MA V f U g

(30)

ma

Where, UL and Ug are superficial velocities of the oil and gas respectively.
The mixture density

mixt = V is given as:


f

mixt V f g V f L 1 V f ~
L 1 V f

(31)

The crude oil mass average velocity (Um) is given as:

L 1 V f

Um MA

gV f U g

uL

V f

(32)

The equation expressing the conservation of mass of each of the two phases is:

L
1 V f L 1 V f U L
t

O
(33)

MA

And

g Vf

g V f U g

O
(34)

MA

Where,
UL and Ug are the average gas and Liquid velocity, respectively.
When

U L U g.

U m U UL Ug

(35)

Incorporating the permeability of oil and biogas into the above, we have:

U LmA 1 V f U L

MA

KK rL

KK rg

U gmA V f U g mA
P
g

Where:

K
p
L V f

(36)

K

p
g V f

(37)

mA

mA

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= Molecular velocity of gas.

L = Molecular velocity of Liquid.


The ratio of relative permeability is:

L Mg V f

KL

K g

g L V f

mA

1V f L

V f g

MA

(38)
MA

From equation above, the effective viscosity () of liquid and gas can be determined as;


LmA L
KL

MA

K
g

MA

(39)

gmA

(40)

misxt mA L g

(41)

Considering oil production after microbial action in-situ, Oil production rate can be treated as a function of the
drawdown pressure. Assuming: A = Cross-section area of the reservoir undergoing MEOR.
U = Mixture Velocity as given by Darcys law.
A.U = Volume flow rate of the oil and gas mixture, which is greater than the volume flow rate,

L 1 V f

The mass flow rate of oil:

L Q mA

L A1 V f V f

dp
dx

(42)

MA

The cumulative production is obtained as the integral over time of the rate of production.

LQ (t ) L to
Q A 1 V f

Q(t )dt

(43)

dp
dx

(44)

Where

KL
L

K
dp
Therefore , QMA A L 1 V f
dx
L

(45)

(46)
MA

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The model can be used to show how the reservoir fluid properties have been altered, implying an increased flow.
Reservoir fluid properties that can be determined from the above derived mathematical model are thus;
The permeability of oil as a result of microbial activities can be obtained from;

KL

K g

1 V f L

V f g

mA

(47)

MA

Then

1 V f L
K L mA K g

V f g

(48)
MA

Viscosity () of oil as a result of biogas dissolution after microbial actions can be determined from as


LmA L
KL

mixt

mA

And

g mA

K
g

MA

MA

L g MA

Solubility due to microbial activities can be calculated from;

Bg MA

Tref
1 dp
T Pr ef dx

MA

The cumulative production of a reservoir undergoing MEOR process can also be obtained from

K
dp
QMA A L 1 V f
dx
L

MA

Some Assumptions made


The reservoir is assumed to be related to PVT cell.
The thermodynamics of fluids are independent of the wall properties of the reservoir, and provided that these walls
are not so closely spaced as to affect the thermodynamics properties of the bulk fluid.
Mass of the dissolved gas released considered.
Gas flow is in 1 dimension, from the point of injection to the reservoir extent.
Metabolite production mostly biogenic gases.
Gas solubility considered

3. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

cp

1.100
1.105
1.114
1.123

Table 1: Field parameters for model validation

g cp
0.0250
0.0234
0.0220
0.0217

Kg

md

0.001
0.004
0.033
0.102

Vf
0.8
0.7
0.6
0.5

Po

Psi

3,600
3,200
30,000
2800

C
0

50
70
80
90

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1.196
0.0201
0.222
0.4
2400
1.337
0.0184
0.395
0.3
2200
1.497
0.0139
0.614
0.2
800
2.100
0.0128
0.867
0.1
400
The calculations of the general effect of microbial activities on these parameters are shown below:
Given; A=600ft2, L 1.100, g 0.250, V f 0.8, K rg 0.004, then,
Permeability of gas in oil after microbial application can be obtained from

KL

K g

mA

1Vf

V f

1Vf
K L mA K g
V
f

MA

MA

1 0.8 1.100
K L mA 0.004

0.8 0.0250

0.2 1.100
0.004

0.8 0.0250
0.004(0.2544) 0.0044mD
For oil viscosity is given as


L mA L
KL

MA

1.100

0.044

L mA

MA

L mA 25.0cp
The oil viscosity due to microbial application is calculated as:
Solubility of gas in oil due to MEOR activities is calculated from equation (23) above as;

Bg

MA

Tref 1 dp
but recall,
T Pr ef dx MA

Pr ef 15.6 0 C and P 14.7 PSia


Bg 0.83

110
130
150
180

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1Vf
Kg
V

KL

1 0 .7
0.004

0.7

0.004 0.4287 47.2

K L mA

mA

1.105
0.0234

0.081md

The oil viscosity due to microbial application is calculated as:

L mA

KL

mA

1.105

0.081

:.

L mA 13.64cp

Solubility of gas in oil after microbial activities is;

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Bg

MA

Bg

MA

Bg

Tref
1 dp
T Pr ef dx

MA

15.6 1 dp
70 14.7 dv

15.6
ln 14.7
70

MA

0.599 MA

K
dp
Q mA A L 1 V f

L
dx

mA

0.081 1 0.7

Q mA

600

Q mA

0.15 bbl / Day

13.64

Table 2: Deduced parameters after MEOR application

L Cp

Q bbl / day

Krl md

27.500

0.018

0.044

13.600

0.15

0.084

1.000

38.8

1.144

0.210

1121.5

5.280

0.060

19345

19.800

0.020

279000

55.970

0.006

8540000

264.500

0.002

196000000

1280.000

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Fig 1 Plot of cumulative production against oil viscosity

Fig 2 Plot of cumulative production against oil viscosity in 3-dimensions

Fig 3 Plot of cumulative production against permeability of mobilized oil

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Fig 4 Plot of cumulative production against permeability of mobilized oil

Fig 5 Plot of oil viscosity against effective permeability of mobilized oil


Figure 1 and 2 shows the plot of cumulative production against the altered viscosity of oil. The plot shows that as the
viscosity of crude oil decreases, cumulative production increases. This improved production is traceable mechanism of
improved mobility of oil as a result of the dissolved biogenic gases in the oil. On the other hand, if more gases are
evolved from the oil, the oil becomes more viscous resulting to a reduction in cumulative production. The Crude
becomes very heavy at this point and is difficult to produce.
Figure 3 and 4 shows the relationship between cumulative production and oil permeability. The plot shows that
production of oil increases with an increased permeability of oil in the microbe-subjected reservoir. Injected microbes
tend to plug thief zones, diverting flow towards the production points in the reservoir, plugging these high permeable
zones in the reservoir increases sweep efficiency during production. Permeability of a rock is the measure to which the
rock can transmit fluid through itself. Once oil viscosity drops in magnitude, the permeability of the oil in the reservoir
increases instantly. The inverse relationship between viscosity and permeability is shown in figure 5.

4. CONCLUSION
Microbial enhanced oil recovery still remains the cheapest, environmental friendly tertiary recovery technique
incorporating several mechanisms to alter certain rock and fluid properties to enhance oil flow to the surface. Before
these microbes can be utilized, thorough investigation must be done to ascertain mechanism of recovery of the selected
microbe. Pseudomonas was used for this investigation on the basis of its ability to produce biogases that will dissolve in
heavy crude to reduce its viscosity and increase its mobility. This research is limited to the assumption that no in-situ
gas was present, it is highly recommended that further study be done to ascertain the effects of in-situ gases on the
produced biogases by the microbe.

Acknowledgement
The authors are grateful to Wosu Angus and Pepple Daniel Dasigha for their immense contributions
to this work.

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