RAM Biochemicals and BTEC: A Success Story
Microbial materials boost crude oil recovery
North Carolina is known for many things, but crude oil production is not one of them. Native Tar Heels may be surprised to learn that for the past six years BTEC Bioprocess Services has prepared microbial materials for RAM Biochemicals that are helping recover crude oil that would otherwise be left stranded in the reservoir. The process known as microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) has been undergoing field trials in Poland since 2011.
RAM Biochemicals is focused on the design, development, implementation, and oversight of microbial oil recovery projects. In 2010, RAM Bio began a collaborative research effort with the Polish Oil and Gas Institute (INiG-PIB) and the Polish Oil and Gas Company (PGNiG). The project's goal was to validate the concept that oil production can be increased by augmenting a conventional waterflood with specially selected microbes and nutrients. Waterflooding is common practice in depleted oil fields around the world. In a conventional waterflood, water (typically oilfield brine) is injected directly into the reservoir to increase fluid pressure thus creating a drive mechanism to move crude oil through the reservoir to the oil-producing wells.
Laboratory investigations involving a series of rigorous studies using oil-saturated rock cores were undertaken by INiG-PIB at its facility in Krakow, Poland. Core studies demonstrated RAM’s microbial system added to oilfield brine displaced more oil than oilfield brine alone. These test results coupled with positive rheological tests enabled PGNiG’s management to give the go-ahead for pilot-scale field trials.
When larger quantities of microbes were needed to begin field trials in 2011, RAM Bio turned to BTEC to produce them.
RAM’s pilot-scale proving ground was Poland’s Plawowice oil field. Phase I field work began in September 2011 with one water injection well and two connected oil-producing wells. Another injector/producer system was added in 2015’s Phase II expansion, bringing the total to two water injection wells and three oil producers.
A commercial project’s success is measured in financial terms, but research projects are judged successful when a concept is proven in the laboratory and then scaled up in field trials. By every measure, the Plawowice research project is an unqualified success. June 2018 marks the 80th month of continuous field operations and still counting. As of this date, the three Plawowice project wells have produced 6,900 metric tons (51,080 barrels) of additional oil, an average increase in production of 99.6%. This is oil that would not have been produced by waterflooding alone. More importantly, it is oil that Poland did not have to import.
Initial project results were presented in January 2014 by the Polish Oil and Gas Institute at an International Petroleum Technology Conference held in Doha, Qatar. The presentation was titled ”Microbially Enhanced Oil Recovery Field Pilot at Plawowice, Poland: Validation of MEOR for Smaller Scale Projects (PDF)”.