S3: Bacteriophage application within the Petroleum Industry

Monday, November 8, 2010: 9:30 AM
Potomac Ballroom A (Key Bridge Marriott Hotel)
Elizabeth J. Summer and Neil S. Summer, Ecolyse, Inc., College Station, TX
Bacterial fouling leads to serious and expensive problems in the oil and gas industry. Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) affects every step of the system, from the production wellhead to the refinery. Bacterially-evolved hydrogen sulfide sours the reservoir, elevating risk, devaluating the product and increasing capital expenditure. Bacterial iron sulfide accumulates as black powder, causing gas pipeline blockages. Long deepwater pipelines are particularly at risk and costly biocide injection and regular pig runs increase operating expenditure and downtime. The petroleum industry currently uses chemical biocides to combat bacteria despite the fact that such biocides are only moderately effective. Moreover, such broad-spectrum chemical biocides are harmful to humans and the environment. A new biocontrol approach based on bacteriophage, the natural viral predators of bacteria, shows great promise. Phage are highly specific to their target bacteria and are harmless to any other cells, be they human, animal, plant, or non-targeted bacteria. Phages specific to sulphate reducing bacteria associated with fouling and MIC in Gulf of Mexico pipelines, have been sourced, characterized and found to be effective. Scale up of production will result in commercial "phage cocktails", and several test projects are underway from which may spring a shift in anti-microbial approach with the petroleum industry.