Bacteria as indicators for finding oil and gas reservoirs: A case study of the Bikaner-Nagaur Basin, Rajasthan, India

Petroleum Science, Sep 2011

Geo-microbial prospecting for hydrocarbons is an exploration method based on the seepage of light gaseous hydrocarbons from oil/gas reservoirs to the surface and their utilization by hydrocarbon oxidizing bacteria. These bacteria utilize hydrocarbon gases as their sole source of food and are found to be enriched in the near surface soils/sediments above the oil and gas reservoirs. The detection of anomalous populations of n-pentane and n-hexane oxidizing bacteria in the surface soils can help to evaluate the prospects for hydrocarbon exploration. A geo-microbial survey has been carried out in the Bikaner Nagaur basin to investigate the prospects for hydrocarbon exploration. In the present study, bacterial counts for n-pentane utilizing bacteria range between 2.0×102 and 1.26×106 cfu/gm and n-hexane utilizing bacteria range between 2.0×102 and 1.21×106 cfu/gm. The bacterial concentration distribution maps show four distinct anomalies in the study area. The possibility of discovering oil or gas reservoirs using the microbiological method is emphasized by the fact that the hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria range between 103 and 106 cfu/gm in soil/sediment receiving hydrocarbon micro-seepages. In t he present study area of the Bikaner Nagaur basin, n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria are found between 105 and 106 cfu/gm of soil sample, which is significant and thereby substantiates the seepage of lighter hydrocarbon accumulations from oil and gas reservoirs. Geo-microbial prospecting studies suggest that hydrocarbon micro-seepage of subsurface origin is present in the study area and indicate that the area has positive prospects for petroleum exploration.

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Bacteria as indicators for finding oil and gas reservoirs: A case study of the Bikaner-Nagaur Basin, Rajasthan, India

Pet.Sci. Bacteria as indicators for finding oil and gas reservoirs: A case study of the Bikaner-Nagaur Basin, Rajasthan, India Mohammed Abdul Rasheed 0 Mutnuri Lakshmi 0 Deshoju Srinu 0 Anurodh Mohan Dayal 0 0 Microbiology Laboratory, Petroleum Geochemistry Division, National Geophysical Research Institute, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) , Uppal Road, Hyderabad-500606 , India Geo-microbial prospecting for hydrocarbons is an exploration method based on the seepage of light gaseous hydrocarbons from oil/gas reservoirs to the surface and their utilization by hydrocarbon oxidizing bacteria. These bacteria utilize hydrocarbon gases as their sole source of food and are found to be enriched in the near surface soils/sediments above the oil and gas reservoirs. The detection of anomalous populations of n-pentane and n-hexane oxidizing bacteria in the surface soils can help to evaluate the prospects for hydrocarbon exploration. A geo-microbial survey has been carried out in the Bikaner Nagaur basin to investigate the prospects for hydrocarbon exploration. In the present study, bacterial counts for n-pentane utilizing bacteria range between 2.0×102 and 1.26×106 cfu/gm and n-hexane utilizing bacteria range between 2.0×102 and 1.21×106 cfu/gm. The bacterial concentration distribution maps show four distinct anomalies in the study area. The possibility of discovering oil or gas reservoirs using the microbiological method is emphasized by the fact that the hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria range between 103 and 106 cfu/gm in soil/sediment receiving hydrocarbon micro-seepages. In the present study area of the Bikaner Nagaur basin, n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria are found between 105 and 106 cfu/gm of soil sample, which is significant and thereby substantiates the seepage of lighter hydrocarbon accumulations from oil and gas reservoirs. Geo-microbial prospecting studies suggest that hydrocarbon micro-seepage of subsurface origin is present in the study area and indicate that the area has positive prospects for petroleum exploration. Hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria; microbial prospecting; micro-seepage; petroleum exploration - 1 Introduction Microbial prospecting method for oil and gas exploration is based on the premise that the light gaseous hydrocarbons migrate upward from subsurface petroleum accumulations by diffusion and effusion (Schumacher and Abrams, 1996) , and are utilized by a variety of microorganisms present in the sub-soil ecosystem. The hydrocarbon oxidizing bacteria exclusively use these gaseous hydrocarbons as carbon source for their metabolic activities and growth (Klusman, 1993; Atlas, 1981; 1984) . These bacteria are mostly found to be enriched in the shallow soils/sediments above hydrocarbonbearing structures at higher levels in hydrocarbon-prospective areas than non-prospective areas. The microbial anomalies have been proven to be reliable indicators of oil and gas in the subsurface (Sundberg et al, 1994; Tucker and Hitzman, 1994) . The microbial prospecting method involves isolation and measurement of hydrocarbon oxidizing bacteria in subsoil strata for the demarcation of hydrocarbon prospects. The direct and positive relationships between microbial population and hydrocarbon concentration in the soils have been investigated in various producing reservoirs worldwide (Sealy, 1974; Miller, 1976; Rasheed et al, 2007; 2008; Wagner et al, 2002) . This technique has been successfully applied in both on land and offshore areas (Beghtel et al, 1987; Nimmi Singh et al, 1999; Wagner et al, 2002; Rasheed et al, 2009) . Initially, methane- and later ethane-, propane-, and butane-oxidizing bacteria were exploited for petroleum exploration. If the result of isolation and enumeration of bacteria that can oxidize n-alkanes with chain lengths of 2 to 8 carbon atoms, without any adaptation period, shows the existence of hydrocarbons in the soil/sediment samples, thus it can indicate the presence of oil accumulations in the subsurface (Wagner et al, 2002) . An attempt was made by using n-hexane utilizing bacteria as indicator for prospecting of oil and gas deposits (Indrani et al, 1989) . Miller (1976) reported a microbial survey of oil fields in USA, in which the microbial activity profile showed a good contrast between oil fields and nearby dry areas. Microbial prospecting methods have been widely used in in the northeast and the Devikot-Nachna subsurface high in the southwest. The basin evolution and the paleogeography of the Bikaner Nagaur basin is associated with other sedimentary basins at the west of the Aravalli range and north of the Jodhpur-Pokhran-Chhotan Malani ridge. The initiation of these sedimentary basins is believed to be related to the Precambrian post Delhi orogenic, anorogenic and igneous activities between 940±20 Ma and 600±70 Ma (Choudhary et al, 1984) . The Bikaner Nagaur basin at the west of Aravalli mountain range, came into existence by the rejuvenation of old Archean and Proterozoic lineaments. Initial rifting caused inter-basinal faults, trending NNE-SSW and resulted in the formation of horst and graben structures. It was followed by large-scale Malani igneous activity. The Malani outpourings were largely fissure-controlled eruptions and related to deepseated tectonic structures trending NNE-SSW. Volcanicity commenced from the north (Tosham Igneous Complex of 940±20 Ma) spread westwards (Kirana volcanics of 870±40 Ma) and culminated in Rajasthan represented by Malani rhyolites of 745±10 Ma and Jalore Granite of 600±70 Ma. The period from 940±20 Ma to 600±70 Ma may, therefore, be considered as the period for the formation and development of the basinal configuration of the large NNE-SSW trending sedimentary basin, which extends from Salt Range in Pakistan, its northern extremity, to the Bikaner Nagaur basin, its southern extremity. Sedimentation in the Bikaner Nagaur basin probably commenced during Late Proterozoic glaciation as is indicated by the presence of Pokhran glacial/fluvioglacial beds over the eroded surface of the Malanis (Khan and Sogani, 1973) . 3 Materials and methods 3.1 Sampling The microbial prospecting survey was carried out in part of the Bikaner Nagaur Basin of Rajasthan, India lies within 29.25°-29.50° N latitude and 73.25°-73.70° E longitude (Fig. 1). Soil sampling was carried out in a grid pattern of 1.1×1.1 km interval. A total of 131 soil samples were collected aseptically in pre-sterilized whirl pack bags under aseptic conditions from a depth of about 1 m and stored at 2-4 ºC till analysis. 3.2 Experimental methodology The soil samples collected from the Bikaner Nagaur Basin were analyzed for n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria. These two bacteria were isolated separately in an atmosphere of n-pentane and n-hexane using an enrichment culture technique, and measurement of the bacteria was done by the Standard Plate Count (SPC) method. One gram of sediment sample was suspended in 9 mL of pre-sterilized water for preparation of decimal dilutions (10–1 to 10–7). A 0.1 mL aliquot of each dilution was plated onto Mineral Salts Medium (MSM) containing petri plates (Atlas and Lawrence, 1996) . These plates were placed in glass desiccators containing air saturated with n-pentane or n-hexane vapor respectively. These desiccators were kept in a bacteriological incubator at 35±2 °C for 10 days. After incubation, the developed bacterial colonies of n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria were manually counted using a colony counter and the bacterial colonies were reported in colony forming unit (cfu/gm of soil sample). The bacterial population and anomaly maps were prepared using Golden Surfer 8.0 application software. 4 Results and discussion The bacteria, which are able to utilize n-pentane or n-hexane as a sole carbon source, are merely developed as bacterial colonies on the MSM plates. Control plates were incubated similarly but without n-pentane and n-hexane. During the course of experiment, positive controls of known hydrocarbon oxidizing bacterial strains namely, Mycobacterium sp. MTCC 19 and Pseudomonas sp. MTCC 129 (procured from IMTECH Chandigarh) were inoculated onto MSM plates and incubated along with the test soil samples. The growth was observed in positive controls and in test samples after incubation. Microseepage of subsurface hydrocarbons was identified by determining the anomaly of hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria under a n-pentane or n-hexane atmosphere, hence, in our study the identification of bacterial strains was not carried out. The bacterial counts in the study area of the Bikaner Nagaur Basin for pentane utilizing bacteria are in the range between 2.0×102 and 1.26×106 cfu/gm and for n-hexane utilizing bacteria are in the range between 2.0×102 and 1.21×106 cfu/gm. Statistical analysis of n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria are given in Table 1. Hydrocarbon oxidizing bacterial concentrations are plotted on the surveyed map using Golden Surfer software 8.0. The bacterial concentration distribution maps of n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria show four distinct anomalies in the studied area (Figs. 2 and 3). The hydrocarbon utilizing bacterial counts in three known oil and gas fields are given in Table 2. In the established regions of the Kadi Kalol oil and gas fields of the Cambay basin, the hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria ranged between 106 and 107 cfu/gm of soil. In the other well-known areas, such as the Ponnamanda and Tatipaka gas fields of the Krishna Godavari basin, the hydrocarbon utilizing bacterial counts 29.5 29.45 29.4 29.35 29.3 29.5 29.45 s e e r g ed 29.4 n i e d u itt a L 29.35 29.3 73.3 73.35 73.4 73.45 73.5 73.55 73.6 73.65 Longitude in degrees of these two areas were found to be 105 cfu/gm of soil, indicating the adaptation of microbes to utilize hydrocarbon seepage and possible presence of hydrocarbon deposits. The Oil and Natural Gas Commission (ONGC) of India has reported the presence of recoverable deposits of petroleum in these two areas. In the oil fields of Mehsana, Cambay basin, Gujarat, it is found that the number of hydrocarbon utilizing bacteria from a petroliferous area is in the range N Pent-O-B cfu/gm between 106 and 107 cfu/gm of soil. In the Jaisalmer gas fields the number of bacteria per gram of soil was always greater than 104 cfu/gm of soil. In these three established oil and gas fields of Mehsana, Cambay basin, Jaisalmer basin and Krishna Godavari basin, soil samples showing bacterial growth ≥104 account for 92%, 80% and 90% respectively. The bacterial counts of these established oil and gas fields were ranged between 103 and 107cfu/gm, while in the exploratory area, the soil samples showed bacterial growth ≥104, indicating that oil or gas exist in the latter area, which was eventually found to be correct after drilling operations. The possibility of discovering oil or gas reservoirs by the microbiological method is emphasized by the fact that the count of hydrocarbon-oxidizing bacteria in soil or sediment samples is in the range between 103 and 106 cfu/gm in soil/ sediment receiving hydrocarbon micro-seepages, depending on the ecological conditions (Wagner et al, 2002) . In the study area of the Bikaner Nagaur basin, 84% of the soil samples show the bacterial growth of ≥104 per gram of soil, and the hydrocarbon oxidizing bacterial count ranged between 105 and 106 cfu/gm of soil, which is significant and thereby substantiate the seepage of lighter hydrocarbon accumulations from the subsurface petroleum reservoirs. The maps of n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria of the study area show four distinct microbial anomalies, which confirm the seepage of light hydrocarbons from the subsurface oil/ gas reservoirs. The microbial results show high bacterial concentrations for n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacterial populations in the studied area of the Bikaner Nagaur Basin, indicating positive prospects for hydrocarbon exploration. 5 Conclusion The microbiological method of oil prospecting is indirect; it is relatively simple and inexpensive. In most previous investigations methane, ethane, propane or butane oxidizing bacteria were used as indicators with varying success; however the use of n-hexane and n-pentane utilizing bacterial indicators for oil and gas exploration appears to be simple and cost effective. In the present study area of the Bikaner Nagaur basin, n-pentane and n-hexane utilizing bacteria were found to be present at levels between 105 and 106 cfu/gm of soil sample, which is significant and thereby substantiates the seepage of lighter hydrocarbons from the subsurface. Geo-microbial prospecting studies suggest that hydrocarbon micro-seepage of subsurface origin is present in the study area and indicate that the area has positive prospects for petroleum exploration. Acknowledgements The authors Dr. M.A.Rasheed (Research Associate) and Miss. M.Lakshmi (Senior Research Fellow) are thankful to CSIR for providing fellowships and we are thankful to Dr. Y.J.Bhasker Rao, Director, National Geophysical Research Institute, (CSIR) for granting permission to publish this work. We thank the Secretary, Oil Industry Development Board (OIDB) for a financial grant for setting up the Microbiology laboratory facility. We are thankful to Dr. Kuldeep Chandra, Former Executive Director, KDMIPE, Dehradun for his continuous support and constant guidance. Atlas R M. Microbial degradation of petroleum hydrocarbons: An environmental perspective . Microbiological Reviews . 1981 . 45 ( 1 ): 180 - 314 Atlas R M. Petroleum Microbiology . New York: Macmillan publishing Company. 1984 . 692 Atlas R M and Lawrence C P. Handbook of Microbiological Media. New York: CRC Press. 1996 . 79 Beghtel F W , Hitzman D O and Sundberg K R. Microbial oil survey technique for evaluation of new field wildcat wells in Kansas . 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Mohammed Abdul Rasheed, Mutnuri Lakshmi, Deshoju Srinu, Anurodh Mohan Dayal. Bacteria as indicators for finding oil and gas reservoirs: A case study of the Bikaner-Nagaur Basin, Rajasthan, India, Petroleum Science, 2011, 264-268, DOI: 10.1007/s12182-011-0143-z