Chapter 9 : Biofouling in the Oil Industry

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This chapter describes the evolving models for biofilm development and highlights the role of biofouling in microbially related oil field problems and opportunities. Biofouling assessment methods based upon changes in heat transfer resistance, differential pressure, or optical attenuation have been developed for other industries, usually for sidestream systems, but these have not yet been applied to oil industry systems due to their complexity and cost. Scanning confocal laser microscopy and fluorescence in situ hybridization, combined with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis, are now in routine use to monitor biofilms in heating systems and could be directly applied to the oil industry. Biofilms may grow to the extent that accumulated cells and extracellular polymer influence the hydraulic or thermal conductivity of their environment. Although uranium is present in minute concentrations in water, a surface biofilm may contain enough radioactive isotopes to be classified as a naturally occurring radioactive material, requiring special handling and safety measures during plant maintenance. Four major mechanisms have been proposed to account for this rapid inhibition of sulfide by nitrate-utilizing bacteria (NUB): outcompetition of SRB by NUB for organic nutrients, production of toxic intermediates such as nitrite, biological oxidation of sulfide by nitrate-reducing and sulfide-oxidizing bacteria, and switching SRB from sulfate to nitrate reduction.

Citation: Sanders P, Sturman P. 2005. Biofouling in the Oil Industry, p 171-198. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch9
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Image of FIGURE 1

Schematic model for attachment of planktonic cells to a surface and growth of microcolonies, followed by detachment and reattachment of cell clusters.

Citation: Sanders P, Sturman P. 2005. Biofouling in the Oil Industry, p 171-198. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch9
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Image of FIGURE 2

Schematic model of the complex microstructure and architecture of a mature biofilm developed on a surface. The biofilm is composed primarily of secreted polymeric substances, with bacterial cells being embedded (and thus protected) in cell clusters. The presence of channels and voids assists mass transport and diffusion of nutrients and waste products, to maintain the activity of the biofilm.

Citation: Sanders P, Sturman P. 2005. Biofouling in the Oil Industry, p 171-198. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch9
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Cell-cell communication (quorum sensing) in bacteria is associated with the accumulation of signal molecules such as HSLs that coregulate gene transcription. Communication may be inter- or intraspecies, and a wide variety of cellular functions (such as metabolic pathways, growth rate, and detachment) may be influenced in other bacteria by the secretion of signal molecules. The biofilm matrix enhances cell-cell communication, since bacterial cells are in close proximity to each other.

Citation: Sanders P, Sturman P. 2005. Biofouling in the Oil Industry, p 171-198. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch9
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Image of FIGURE 4

Positive and negative consequences of biofilm growth in the oil industry. For details on each numbered biofilm effect, see the text.

Citation: Sanders P, Sturman P. 2005. Biofouling in the Oil Industry, p 171-198. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch9
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Generic image for table

Methods being developed for biofilm assessment in oil field applications

Citation: Sanders P, Sturman P. 2005. Biofouling in the Oil Industry, p 171-198. In Ollivier B, Magot M (ed), Petroleum Microbiology. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555817589.ch9

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