Protocols for Investigating the Microbiology of Oil Sands Deposits

  • Christina M. Ridley
  • Gerrit Voordouw
  • Lisa M. GiegEmail author
Part of the Springer Protocols Handbooks book series (SPH)


As global energy requirements continue to increase, traditionally unconventional energy resources such as oil sands are being tapped to help supply the energy need. Oil sands deposits, present in vast, economic amounts in regions of Canada and Venezuela, contain a highly degraded, viscous crude oil in the form of bitumen. Although it is well accepted that bitumen is formed over geological time due to microbial biodegradation, the microorganisms and their potential metabolic activities associated with oil sands reservoirs are poorly understood. However, there is great interest in elucidating the microbiology of oil sands for biotechnological applications in this industry and the fossil energy industry in general. This chapter describes protocols that can be used to collect oil sands samples (with a focus on deep oil sands found in the Alberta, Canada oil sands region) and process them to determine microbial community composition by 16S rRNA gene sequencing and microbial activity using microcosms. The protocols include a description of the key supplies needed, suggested sampling methods, and the methods we have used (including troubleshooting approaches) for processing oil sands samples for microbial investigations of this hydrocarbon resource environment.


16S rRNA gene sequencing Bitumen Microbial community composition Microcosms Oil reservoir sampling Oil sands 



This work was supported grants from the Hydrocarbon Metagenomics Project funded by Genome Canada and administered through Genome Alberta to LMG and GV. This work was also supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Industrial Research Chair Award to GV and by funding from Baker Hughes, BP, Computer Modelling Group Limited, ConocoPhillips Company, Intertek, Dow Microbial Control, Enbridge, Enerplus Corporation, Oil Search Limited, Shell Global Solutions International BV, Suncor Energy Inc., and Yara Norge AS, as well as from Alberta Innovates – Energy and Environment Solutions (AIEES). We thank Ginny Wong, Dongshan An, and Johanna Voordouw for their participation in method development and Stan Stancliffe from Suncor Energy Inc. for organization and participation in sampling field trips.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christina M. Ridley
    • 1
  • Gerrit Voordouw
    • 1
  • Lisa M. Gieg
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Petroleum Microbiology Research Group, Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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