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Why? Because Biosurfactants are the Future of Sustainable and More Effective Oil Recovery.

The days of easy oil are over. To survive the current pressures to increase production while meeting SEC climate risk guidelines, companies need cutting-edge technologies that sustainably recover more oil. Enter biosurfactants.

The Basics of Surfactants

To better understand what biosurfactants are, let’s start by discussing surfactants.
Surfactants are compounds with inherent properties that reduce the surface and interfacial tension between two liquids, a gas and a liquid, or a liquid and a solid. Surfactants are a crucial part of a multitude of global industries, such as:

  • Agriculture
  • Cosmetic and Personal Care
  • Food and Beverage
  • Medicine / Pharmaceuticals
  • Mining
  • Oil & Gas / Petroleum
  • Remediation
  • Wastewater
  • …and many more

They have many desirable properties for oil and gas extraction, and can act as cleansers, detergents, dispersants, foamers, emulsifiers, viscosity builders, wetting agents and more.

Using Surfactants in the Oilfield

The oil and gas industry uses substantial amounts of petrochemical-based synthetic surfactants and chemicals to facilitate the recovery of hydrocarbons. For over 50 years, chemically derived surfactants were “good enough” to meet the demands of the oil industry.

But today’s complex completion strategies for lower-porosity, lower-permeability, higher-temperature and higher-pressure reservoirs, require a step-change in surfactant technology. However, so does the drive for environmentally friendly, sustainable, and biodegradable compounds. That’s where biosurfactants come in.

What are Biosurfactants?

Biosurfactants are a specific class of bio-based surfactants that are naturally derived. Unlike other bio-based surfactants, which can be chemically produced, biosurfactants are biologically produced.

Biosurfactants are a structurally diverse group of surface-active substances produced by microorganisms, but are non-living and sterile. All biosurfactants are amphiphiles, they consist of two parts—a polar (hydrophilic) moiety and non polar (hydrophobic) group.

Biosurfactants, specifically fermentation-produced biosurfactants, offer significant advantages over synthetic surfactants and other bio-based surfactants. These include enhanced multifunctional performance, better environmental compatibility, 10x lower toxicity, higher biodegradability and maintained activity under extreme conditions of temperatures, salinity and pH values.

Why Have Biosurfactants Not Dominated the Oil and Gas Industry?

Biosurfactants have been around for decades, but they’ve been cost prohibitive for use in the oil and gas industry—until Locus Bio-Energy Solutions developed a patented process to produce biosurfactants at scale at economical price points for oilfield applications.

Using ISO 9001 accredited fermentation processes, Locus Bio-Energy Solutions delivers high-potency, customized biosurfactants with a near-zero carbon footprint requiring less than < 10% of the CAPEX of traditional production methods. For the first time, the oil & gas industry can cost-effectively utilize these powerful fermentation-produced biosurfactant solutions.

What Do Biosurfactants Do in the Oilfield?

The complex molecular structure, mechanism of actions and near-zero carbon footprint are unique to Locus Bio-Energy Solutions’ fermentation-produced biosurfactants. This combination of attributes can’t be replicated by other chemistries. It gives the biosurfactants superior multifunctional performance that synthetic surfactants and other bio-based surfactants struggle to achieve. This significantly increases the efficacy of numerous oil extraction processes, including:

  • The reduction of oil-water interfacial tension
  • The wettability alteration of the rock surface
  • The decrease of capillary forces (drag)
  • The penetration of tight nanopores and natural fractures
  • The solubilization of paraffin deposits

The outcome is enhanced oil mobility through the rock matrix that results in ongoing sustained increases in oil recovery.

Learning From the Mistakes of Microbial EOR

It’s no secret—a similar approach was attempted in the past. It was called Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR), and it was tried in the 1980s and 90s. What happened?

Microbes and nutrients were co-injected into oil wells in an attempt to generate biosurfactants in-situ. However, the results were inconsistent as the microbial generation of biosurfactants in the reservoir were hard to control.

How are Fermentation-Produced Biosurfactants Different?

So how are biosurfactants from Locus Bio-Energy Solutions different from these fermentation-produced biosurfactants? It’s all in the production method.

Locus Bio-Energy’s patented fermenters are used to generate and extract high-quality, concentrated biosurfactant through a ISO 9001 accredited manufacturing processes with a near-zero carbon footprint– ensuring superior performance, sustainability and cost-effective production with no living microbes or nutrients in the final product.

In many ways, it’s very similar to how your favorite microbrewery ferments a beer. Extensive lab studies are done to ensure successful field results.

Locus Bio-Energy scientists then customize each biosurfactant based solution to the specific needs of the wells being treated. The resulting biosurfactant based treatment is injected at the appropriate dosage rate into the reservoir in a controlled manner—or used as an additive to other well treatments.

This allows oil operators to consistently recover maximum oil from the producing well. Their proven success in well remediation and well stimulation treatments has resulted in expansion into additional applications, including completion fluids for hydraulic fracturing, saltwater disposal well injection aids and more.

In summary, this fermented biotechnology is helping solve the industry’s biggest problems with unmatched results. Finding the right biosurfactant treatment for your main challenge can help you get the most out of your well. Check out the articles below to continue learning more on biosurfactants. Or contact us today.

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