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Experimental Investigation of the Impact of Biosurfactants on Residual-Oil Recovery

Authors: S. V. Ukwungwu, A. J. Abbas, G. G. Nasr


The increasing high price of natural gas and oil with attendant increase in energy demand on world markets in recent years has stimulated interest in recovering residual oil saturation across the globe. In order to meet the energy security, efforts have been made in developing new technologies of enhancing the recovery of oil and gas, utilizing techniques like CO2 flooding, water injection, hydraulic fracturing, surfactant flooding etc. Surfactant flooding however optimizes production but poses risk to the environment due to their toxic nature. Amongst proven records that have utilized other type of bacterial in producing biosurfactants for enhancing oil recovery, this research uses a technique to combine biosurfactants that will achieve a scale of EOR through lowering interfacial tension/contact angle. In this study, three biosurfactants were produced from three Bacillus species from freeze dried cultures using sucrose 3 % (w/v) as their carbon source. Two of these produced biosurfactants were screened with the TEMCO Pendant Drop Image Analysis for reduction in IFT and contact angle. Interfacial tension was greatly reduced from 56.95 mN.m-1 to 1.41 mN.m-1 when biosurfactants in cell-free culture (Bacillus licheniformis) were used compared to 4. 83mN.m-1 cell-free culture of Bacillus subtilis. As a result, cell-free culture of (Bacillus licheniformis) changes the wettability of the biosurfactant treatment for contact angle measurement to more water-wet as the angle decreased from 130.75o to 65.17o. The influence of microbial treatment on crushed rock samples was also observed by qualitative wettability experiments. Treated samples with biosurfactants remained in the aqueous phase, indicating a water-wet system. These results could prove that biosurfactants can effectively change the chemistry of the wetting conditions against diverse surfaces, providing a desirable condition for efficient oil transport in this way serving as a mechanism for EOR. The environmental friendly effect of biosurfactants applications for industrial purposes play important advantages over chemically synthesized surfactants, with various possible structures, low toxicity, eco-friendly and biodegradability.

Keywords: Wettability, Enhanced Oil Recovery, bacillus, biosurfactant, residual oil

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