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Chemical innovation could be the key to increasing efficiency, reducing costs and maximizing production from existing assets. Explore biosurfactant applications in oil & gas and how oilfield chemicals are taking performance to a new level.

For decades, oilfield chemicals played a vital – yet often overlooked – role across all stages of oil & gas production.

But as global energy demands rose, operators searched for ways to increase production using their current assets. Many found that strategic changes in their chemical programs resulted in greater efficiency. Oilfield chemicals with surfactant additives rose in popularity, helping operators meet production objectives without major investments or overhauls.

However, today’s mounting challenges are outpacing traditional solutions.

Resources are scarcer, reservoirs more complex, and regulations stricter. Synthetic surfactants, once seen as reliable solutions, increasingly struggle to meet the performance objectives needed from them. And with limited options to evolve these older chemistries, even leading premium surfactants simply aren’t getting the job done anymore.

Meanwhile, pressures to meet growing supply demands continue rising exponentially.

Can innovations in oilfield chemicals keep up with our industry’s ever-evolving needs?
Would potential gains in production impact profitability and/or sustainability?
How can we avoid supply disruptions when implementing new technologies?

 Enter biosurfactants, a new breed of high-performance chemicals. 

The Power of Biosurfactants:

Applications Across the Oil & Gas Industry

Biosurfactants deliver a wide range of benefits across the oil & gas industry, offering powerful solutions for production enhancement, flow assurance, cleaning and more. Their unique properties and versatility make them a compelling alternative to traditional oilfield chemicals. Here’s a glimpse at their extensive applications to extract, refine and transport our industry’s resources:


Acidizing remediation
Enhanced oil recovery
Hydrate inhibition
Hydraulic fracturing
Production enhancement
Wellbore flow assurance


Tank and barge cleaning
Chemical ISO cleaning
Hydrocarbon remediation
Pipeline flow assurance
Saltwater disposal
Water treatment


Crude oil desalting
Diesel cold flow improvers
Engine oil emulsifier/stabilizer
Fuel additives
Marine fuel anti-sludge

Some biosurfactant-based products are quickly gaining traction for their superior performance and cost-effectiveness, typically outperforming traditional synthetic surfactants and even other bio-based surfactants.
Read MORE:
Differences in biosurfactants & bio-based surfactants

Why do biosurfactants work better than traditional oilfield chemicals? 

Let’s explore why some biosurfactants are proving to be so versatile and effective:

Multifunctional Properties: Powerhouse Performance

The complex and unique molecular structure of certain biosurfactants feature results in powerful, multifunctional properties. They are highly surface active and effective at lower concentrations which typically results in lower treatment dosage rates required to mobilize oil or penetrate and disperse deposits.

In contrast to conventional surfactants, biosurfactants feature multiple active sites that contribute to their ability to maintain performance objectives, even as their concentration depletes.

This translates to benefits such as extended production enhancement with slower declines and longer cycle times before retreatment. Traditional surfactants tend to flowback and lose efficacy at a faster rate.

Smaller Micelle Size: Reaching What Traditional Chemicals Can’t

Biosurfactants are also very small. In fact, they are orders of magnitude smaller than conventional surfactants. This enables biosurfactants to access the tiny pore spaces and nano fractures that traditional chemistries physically can’t reach. In hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery, this ultimately leads to improved recovery.

Synergistic Functions: The Biosurfactant Trifecta

Their nanometer micelle size also contributes to the remarkable “biosurfactant trifecta” ability to penetrate, disperse and suspend solid particles or accumulated material. This differentiates biosurfactants from other surfactants and solvents across applications like acidizing, wellbore remediation, pipelines, saltwater disposal (SWD) wells and tank cleaning.

The three functionalities work synergistically from multiple angles to not only improve efficiency, but also attack contaminants from the inside out. This allows for more thorough and effective treatments that go beyond surface level typically seen with conventional additives.

Oilfield Advantages of Biosurfactants

Biosurfactants deliver operational benefits across various oilfield applications. From production enhancement to flow assurance and cleaning solutions, their unique properties offer a powerful alternative to traditional oilfield chemicals. Click each tab below for details.

Production Enhancement: Increased Oil Recovery

Surfactants aid oil recovery in reservoirs through wettability alteration and surface and interfacial tension reductions between oil, water and rock surfaces. This effectively mobilizes oil by reducing the “drag” between oil and the reservoir rock surface, ultimately enhancing oil recovery and optimizing well performance.

Biosurfactant treatments are highly effective in recovering residual oil in existing wells that would otherwise be trapped in the reservoir.  When used in new well frac operations, biosurfactants also offer benefits associated with “building a better well.” In other words, biosurfactants improve oil production over the life of the well by mobilizing a compositionally complete crude oil from the first day of production. They typically have better performance at lower concentrations than many traditional surfactants.

Significant performance improvements also occur with the more sustainable enhanced oil recovery (EOR) route. Revitalization efforts become more attractive when operators know they can get upwards of 40% more oil out of wells than currently obtained. And, because lower dosage rates deliver high performance, return on investment is faster compared to conventional surfactants. Combined with the ability to slow the decline in production after a single treatment, biosurfactant technology is changing the economics of EOR.

Flow Assurance: More Efficient Remediation

Further to reaching oil resources synthetic chemicals can’t reach, biosurfactants and their multiple active sites provide additional benefits in applications for flow assurance. Wellbore remediation with acid-based fluid systems is critical for eliminating carbonate scales and removing formation damage to reconnect the wellbore with the hydrocarbon-bearing formation. Although acidizing job designs vary widely in complexity, they all share the same end goal: remove impedances to flow to increase oil production.

Biosurfactant-based products allow operators to replace conventional, multi-stage solvent packages with a single acid additive. The technology is effective as both a surfactant and a detergent at low concentrations and can even reduce or eliminate anti-sludge agents. It streamlines the lengthy and complex process of ensuring chemical compatibility with acids and solvents in the acidizing treatment – while also improving performance.

Biosurfactant technology has also been harnessed to mitigate and remediate flow issues related to paraffin and asphaltene beneath the surface, near the surface and at the surface. Due to the molecular complexity, the biosurfactant is more effective at non-specifically tackling large, bulky molecules, preventing their agglomeration and keeping them in suspension, ensuring continuous flow.

Cleaning Solutions: Better Waste Removal

For every barrel of oil produced, there is nearly an equal amount of waste that must be disposed. The waste generated and their associated disposal methods vary greatly during the well’s life. And waste is everywhere – from the mud used for drilling to the chemical storage containers to the barge transporting crude to the produced water. Many of the current cleaning approaches require significant time and energy and often result in additional waste generation.

Biosurfactants have unique properties that disperse and enhance the flowability of oily wax, sludge, friction reducers and other solids. Their higher potency allows for smaller, more cost-effective doses, while their chemical complexity makes them much more effective than existing solvents and other chemical treatments. These unique new cleaning solutions can get the job done in a fraction of the time and effort.

Using biosurfactant technology also significantly reduces the amount of water needed for cleaning, leading to reduced waste disposal costs for contaminated water. What sets biosurfactants apart is their ability to achieve these remarkable cleaning results without requiring special equipment or labor-intensive manual cleaning efforts, as well as the potential to turn waste into profit.


Today’s oil & gas industry faces difficult challenges: complex reservoirs, aging infrastructure and stricter environmental regulations. The need for cutting-edge solutions to maximize production and streamline operations is more urgent than ever.

Biosurfactants are rising to the challenge, redefining the future of oilfield chemicals. They deliver unmatched results in production enhancement, flow assurance and waste removal. Yet, biosurfactant-based products look and feel like their synthetic counterparts, requiring little to no change in current chemical programs. Operators embracing biosurfactant technology are already reaping the benefits – increased efficiency, better performance and reduced costs – with the added advantage of reaching sustainability goals faster.

Want to know more about the success stories driving biosurfactant adoption in the oilfield? In our upcoming blogs, we’ll delve into specific applications and case studies, highlighting proven results and operational improvements. Stay tuned to hear about how biosurfactant technology is impacting major U.S. oil plays, as well as overseas in regions such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do biosurfactants contain live microbes and/or support microbial growth?
Although we have bio in the name, our biosurfactant-based products do not contain any live organisms nor support microbial growth.

Do the products require special handing or storage because they contain a natural biosurfactant?
We design products to look, feel and be applied the same as traditional chemistries are today, but they offer differentiated performance.

Can our operations even afford a biosurfactant-based additive?
We formulate to be cost competitive with equivalent chemistries on the market that have similar functionalities. But the benefit of using our biosurfactant-based products is the lower dosages – less is more. With our products, usually lower dosage rates can achieve the same or better performance than what you’re doing today.

Can’t wait until the next blog?

Contact us for case histories on how biosurfactant-based products are impacting global oilfields.

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