Mechanisms and Monitoring of Oil Reservoir Souring Control by Nitrate or Perchlorate Injection

  • Hans K. Carlson
  • Casey R. J. HubertEmail author
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology book series (HHLM)


Oil reservoir souring is the production of hydrogen sulfide by sulfate-reducing microorganisms (SRM) in oil fields. Anaerobic respiration of sulfate is supported by various electron donors in petroleum reservoir ecosystems. Nitrate addition results in souring control by stimulating dissimilatory nitrate-reducing microorganisms (NRM) that directly or indirectly utilize petroleum-derived SRM electron donors. The oxidative capacity of nitrate for this process depends on NRM physiology and whether nitrate is metabolized to fully reduced end products or is partially reduced to nitrite. Production of nitrite is beneficial because it inhibits SRM. In laboratory tests, similar to nitrate, perchlorate also results in inhibition of microbial sulfate reduction by stimulating dissimilatory perchlorate-reducing microorganisms (PRM). The intermediates of perchlorate respiration include the potent oxidants, chlorate, chlorite, and dioxygen, which, like nitrite, are also highly inhibitory of SRM. The two approaches to souring control have interesting similarities and differences with respect to mode of action, and we discuss ways in which they could have beneficial synergistic interactions in a co-treatment approach to souring control. Other oxyanion inhibitors of souring are an interesting area of future research, and we summarize data on their modes of action and impact on different microbial subpopulations. Oil companies use various microbiological surveillance tools to monitor the success of nitrate injection or other souring control strategies. SRM surveillance traditionally relies on cultivation-based testing but in recent years has expanded to include cultivation-independent molecular and isotopic methods for detection and quantification of both harmful and beneficial oil reservoir microbes.



The authors wish to acknowledge the financial support from the Campus Alberta Innovates Program to CRJH and from the UC Berkeley Energy Biosciences Institute to HKC.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Environmental Genomics and Systems Biology DivisionLawrence Berkeley National LabBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of CalgaryCalgaryCanada

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