Wax accumulation in wells and low oil recovery rates are two of the major challenges in the oil industry. At the same time, it is important to note that every well has its unique characteristics, such as depth, producing zones and reservoir rock type, etc. As the oil travels from the reservoir to the surface and onto topsides separation facilities, a combination of pressure and temperature reductions can destabilize heavier fractions of the crude such as paraffin and asphaltenes, which in turn accumulate on the walls of the pipeline and eventually form blockages.
There are two commonly used remediations available to solve this problem: the first one is to “soak” the pipeline with a solvent such as toluene or xylene to dissolve the accumulated paraffin; the second is to use hot oil and hot water, with or without synthetic surfactants, to melt/move the deposit. Both solutions are relatively expensive, labor and time-intensive, and often require extensive production downtime (loss of revenue). They can also present health and safety risks.
But thanks to advances in environmentally–friendly technology, there are highly effective “green” solutions that have been proven in over 500 applications in the Appalachia and Permian regions of the USA to outperform synthetic chemical treatments and provide improved results: faster and more complete remediation and slower redeposition of paraffins in the weeks and months after treatment. These award-winning treatments were developed by Locus Bio-Energy and are a step change in remediation technology. Known as AssurEOR FLOW™ and AssurEOR STIM™, the treatments consist of biosurfactants—nature’s ultimate dispersant.
A Natural Alternative
In nature, microbes produce and exude these complex molecules to enable them to break up potential food sources, such as fats and oils, into micro-sized particles that can then be transported across their cell wall into an aqueous environment to be metabolized. These are exactly the properties we wish to harness in the oilfield, i.e. breaking up organic blockages formed by paraffins and asphaltenes into similar microparticles that can be dispersed in aqueous environments (oil field produced water) to remove the blockages. Independent third-party laboratory testing conducted in 2019 proved that Locus Bio-Energy’s biosurfactants equaled or outperformed a range of solvents such as Xylene in their ability to dissolve a range of paraffin deposits. In these same tests our biosurfactants significantly outperformed 3 competitor’s wax dispersants on the full range of deposits tested. All of this from a fully biodegradable, sustainable, water–based biosurfactant!
The amazing properties of biosurfactants have been recognized for over 20 years. Numerous technical papers compare their properties to the traditional synthetic surfactants currently used in the oil industry and note both the step change in performance they provide plus the extremely low dosages needed (typically 1/50th to 1/100th of the dosage of traditional surfactants), and their wide range of stability from high temperatures to extremes of salinity and pH. These lab studies and papers almost always conclude that although biosurfactants have tremendous potential, they could not be manufactured at sufficient scale to be cost–efficiently used in the oilfield. Enter Locus Bio-Energy Solutions.
With a patented, modular–based fermentation system, Locus Bio-Energy can produce biosurfactants in the quantities and price point needed to be used at scale in the oilfield. Biosurfactants are produced in a controlled environment in a process very similar to a microbrewery, but instead of alcohol, biosurfactants are separated and extracted in high concentrations. The finished product resembles honey and contains no living microbes; just pure, highly effective biosurfactants.
Locus Bio-Energy has compiled a database of 200+ different paraffin types that have been sampled and tested, and all of them can be successfully dispersed and liquefied using AssurEOR FLOW. In addition, over 300 AssurEOR FLOW applications in the U.S. have delivered increases in oil production averaging 45% following treatment due to the biosurfactants’ action inside the well. Biosurfactants penetrate into the near wellbore area, increasing water wettability and reducing capillary pressures and consequently, the drag between the oil layer and the reservoir rock which impedes oil flow and eventually recovery rates.
After paraffin is successfully remediated, a second treatment can be applied intermittently to the well to maintain these production gains. Known as AssurEOR STIM, this additional biosurfactant-based solution further penetrates into the reservoir to mobilize otherwise immobile oil. Both AssurEOR FLOW and AssurEOR STIM are effective on both conventional and unconventional (Shale) reservoirs.
Locus Bio-Energy’s expertise in developing customized treatment programs has resulted in successful applications in hundreds of wells in the Permian, Appalachian and Powder River basins, with growing demand from many of the largest E&P companies. This program has been awarded “New Technology Development of the Year” in the Oil & Gas Awards for both the Texas and Northeast regions.
Biosurfactants: Produced By Nature. Perfected By Locus.