Current Microbiology

, Volume 76, Issue 3, pp 382–391 | Cite as

Biosurfactant-Producing Capability and Prediction of Functional Genes Potentially Beneficial to Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery in Indigenous Bacterial Communities of an Onshore Oil Reservoir

  • Thanachai Phetcharat
  • Pinan Dawkrajai
  • Thararat Chitov
  • Wuttichai Mhuantong
  • Verawat Champreda
  • Sakunnee BovonsombutEmail author


Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR) is a bio-based technology with economic and environmental benefits. The success of MEOR depends greatly on the types and characteristics of indigenous microbes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the feasibility of applying MEOR at Mae Soon Reservoir, an onshore oil reservoir experiencing a decline in its production rate. We investigated the capability of the reservoir’s bacteria to produce biosurfactants, and evaluated the potentials of uncultured indigenous bacteria to support MEOR by means of prediction of MEOR-related functional genes, based on a set of metagenomic 16s rRNA gene data. The biosurfactant-producing bacteria isolated from the oil-bearing sandstones from the reservoir belonged to one species: Bacillus licheniformis, with one having the ability to decrease surface tension from 72 to 32 mN/m. Gene sequences responsible for biosurfactant (licA3), lipase (lipP1) and catechol 2,3-dioxygenase (C23O) were detected in these isolates. The latter two, and other genes encoding MEOR-related functional proteins such as enoyl-CoA hydratase and alkane 1-monooxygenase, were predicted in the bacterial communities residing the reservoir’s sandstones. Exposure of these sandstones to nutrients, consisting of KNO3 and NaH2PO4, resulted in an increase in the proportions of some predicted functional genes. These results indicated the potentials of MEOR application at Mae Soon site. Using the approaches demonstrated in this study would also assist evaluation of the feasibility of applying MEOR in oil reservoirs, which may be enhanced by an appropriate nutrient treatment.



This research work was facilitated and partially supported by Chiang Mai University (CMU), Northern Petroleum Development Center (NPDC), The National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC), and was financially funded by the National Research Council of Thailand, NPDC, and CMU Graduate School. The authors would like to thank the staff members of the NPDC, Chiang Mai, Thailand, for their assistance in the field sampling and Dr. Denis Sweatman (CMU) for his kind assistance in proofreading the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (XLSX 25 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thanachai Phetcharat
    • 1
  • Pinan Dawkrajai
    • 2
  • Thararat Chitov
    • 3
    • 5
  • Wuttichai Mhuantong
    • 4
  • Verawat Champreda
    • 4
  • Sakunnee Bovonsombut
    • 3
    • 5
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Program in Biotechnology, Graduate SchoolChiang Mai UniversityChiang MaiThailand
  2. 2.Defence Energy DepartmentNorthern Petroleum Development CenterFangThailand
  3. 3.Division of Microbiology, Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceChiang Mai UniversityChiang MaiThailand
  4. 4.Enzyme Technology LaboratoryThe National Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC)Pathum ThaniThailand
  5. 5.Environmental Science Research Center (ESRC)Chiang Mai UniversityChiang MaiThailand
  6. 6.Department of Biology, Faculty of ScienceChiang Mai UniversityChiang MaiThailand

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