Transport in Porous Media

, Volume 92, Issue 3, pp 819-835

First online:

Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery in Fractional-Wet Systems: A Pore-Scale Investigation

  • Ryan T. ArmstrongAffiliated withSchool of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering, Oregon State University
  • , Dorthe WildenschildAffiliated withSchool of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering, Oregon State University Email author 

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Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) is a technology that could potentially increase the tertiary recovery of oil from mature oil formations. However, the efficacy of this technology in fractional-wet systems is unknown, and the mechanisms involved in oil mobilization therefore need further investigation. Our MEOR strategy consists of the injection of ex situ produced metabolic byproducts produced by Bacillus mojavensis JF-2 (which lower interfacial tension (IFT) via biosurfactant production) into fractional-wet cores containing residual oil. Two different MEOR flooding solutions were tested; one solution contained both microbes and metabolic byproducts while the other contained only the metabolic byproducts. The columns were imaged with X-ray computed microtomography (CMT) after water flooding, and after MEOR, which allowed for the evaluation of the pore-scale processes taking place during MEOR. Results indicate that the larger residual oil blobs and residual oil held under relatively low capillary pressures were the main fractions recovered during MEOR. Residual oil saturation, interfacial curvatures, and oil blob sizes were measured from the CMT images and used to develop a conceptual model for MEOR in fractional-wet systems. Overall, results indicate that MEOR was effective at recovering oil from fractional-wet systems with reported additional oil recovered (AOR) values between 44 and 80%; the highest AOR values were observed in the most oil-wet system.


Microbial enhanced oil recovery X-ray microtomography Multiphase flow Interfacial curvature