Oilfield Microbiology

Microbially influenced corrosion

Microbial monitoring is an essential step towards safeguarding your assets against the effects of corrosion, and assessing the likelihood of reservoir souring.

At NCIMB, we can support you throughout the process. We:

  • offer a range of approaches for the microbial analysis of samples from oil and gas facilities including
    • culture based
    • qPCR
    • microbial community analysis
  • provide clear actionable reports
  • undertake biocide testing
  • supply media kits for culture-based enumeration
  • partner with corrosion monitoring specialists ICR in the delivery of full microbiological audits and surveys of production facilities.

NCIMB has an extensive track record of working with the oil and gas industry, and operates a well-established quality management system certified to ISO 9001:2015 and are FPAL registered.

Some groups of microorganisms that occur commonly in the environment can cause serious problems in an industrial setting. For example, the proliferation of sulphate reducing prokaryotes (SRP) can influence corrosion rates in pipelines, vessels and machinery, and the conditions found within production facilities can provide the ideal environment for their growth.

The actions of different groups of microorganisms influence corrosion in different ways. For example growth of some groups of microbes can create conditions that allow proliferation of others, which in turn produce corrosive waste products such as hydrogen sulphide or acids.

Monitoring for the presence of the key groups of microorganisms known to influence corrosion in oilfield environments, allows remedial action to be taken if numbers start to rise.  Continued regular monitoring can also determine the efficacy of steps taken to control these groups of organisms, helping you to make informed and timely decisions.

At NCIMB we can identify and quantify microorganisms known to influence corrosion using both the latest molecular methods, and traditional culture-based techniques. Analysis can be undertaken on most types of liquid and solid sample, including production fluids, scales and pig wax. We also offer analysis of the whole microbial community within the reservoir.

Microbial analyses offered

  • qPCR: This technique is used to quantify groups of microorganisms without any requirement for growth.  It therefore gives rapid results, and ensures that microbes that do not grow under laboratory conditions are included in counts. This approach can be used to monitor the different groups of microorganism involved in microbially influenced corrosion to build a more in depth understanding.
  • Culture-based enumeration: This approach is based on the inoculation of selective media to enumerate microorganisms. Inoculated vials are incubated for a period of time prior to analysis. We offer this service for a variety of different groups of microbes including:
    • Sulphate reducing prokaryotes
    • Thermophilic sulphate reducing prokaryotes
    • General heterotrophic bacteria
    • Acid-producing general heterotrophic bacteria
    • Nitrite reducing bacteria
  • Microbial community analysis - 16S metagenomics: This technique, which has revolutionised understanding of environmental microbiology in recent years, analyses the whole microbial population from a single sample. It identifies the groups of microorganisms present to give a comprehensive picture of the microbial ecosystem within the oilfield. This allows microbiological changes to be monitored in longitudinal studies as well as aiding understanding of the functional impact of the species observed. 16S community analysis is a powerful tool that can help operating companies assess the likelihood of reservoir souring and corrosion.
  • Sessile and planktonic populations: NCIMB partners with corrosion monitoring specialists ICR in the delivery of full microbiological audits and surveys of production facilities. Analysis of samples from retrieved corrosion coupons and probes allows sessile microbial growth on pipework and in vessels to be monitored.  This data allows a more accurate evaluation on the threat of microbially influenced corrosion than monitoring planktonic populations alone. For more information about ICR's comprehensive corrosion monitoring and microbiological audit services visit their website.

    Not sure which analysis approach you need?

    We can advise on the most appropriate approach to monitoring and have participated in R&D projects as well as undertaking routine analysis. The range of methods and approaches available for enumerating and analysing oilfield microbes has grown in recent years, with molecular approaches growing in popularity. The different methods available are not different ways of measuring the same thing - they measure different things. You can learn more by reading our blog, or case study watching our video at the end of this page, or downloading our introduction to integrated molecular approaches for microbial monitoring in the oil and gas sector.  You can also contact us. Our consultant microbiologists have extensive experience of oilfield microbiology and can provide expert advice.

      Oilfield microbiology media

      NCIMB offers a range of commonly required oilfield microbiology media and can prepare bespoke formulations to order.

      Our range includes media formulations from NACE standard TMO194-2014, as well as our own recipes. NCIMB houses the UK's major reference culture collection of environmental bacteria and has more than 70 years' experience in production of culture media required to grow microorganisms from a hugely diverse range of environments including freshwater and marine environments, as well as oil and gas facilities. We have worked closely with the oil and gas industry for decades, tailoring our products and services to meet their requirements.

        We supply media for enumeration of:

        • Sulphate reducing prokaryotes
        • Thermophilic sulphate reducing prokaryotes
        • General heterotrophic bacteria
        • Acid-producing general heterotrophic bacteria
        • Nitrite reducing bacteria
        • Nitrogen-utilising bacteria
        • Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria
        • Thiosulphate-reducing bacteria

        Media is supplied in boxes of 12 vials, with freshwater and seawater formulations available. We can also produce bespoke formulations for the specific salinity requirements of the test environment and store stocks of specific media for customers.

        Other sampling sundries such as needles, syringes and thermometers are also available and can be supplied along with media in kits.

        If you require media for groups of microorganisms that are not listed above please contact us.

        Biocide testing

        We can undertake lab-based biocide testing against our own in-house North Sea microbial consortium, or enrich from clients’ own samples for laboratory testing. We can also undertake direct enumeration from customer samples following treatment at the production facility to determine efficacy in situ.

        We can use both traditional culture-based enumeration for determining the efficacy of biocides or take a molecular approach with qPCR. Culture based enumeration is likely to be the most appropriate approach for testing against lab-grown cultures, whereas qPCR can give faster results for testing the impact of biocides following on site treatment, as part of a longer term study.

        For customers seeking more in depth understanding, we can undertake community analysis to provide detailed information on the different categories of microbes present, and their relative abundance. This information can then be used as part of an ongoing monitoring regime.