School of Natural and Environmental Sciences


Deepbioengineering: Enhanced petroleum exploration and production through engineering biology

In the transition between petroleum reliance and a more sustainable energy future we will benefit from viewing our vital petroleum reserves as microbial ecosystems that can be engineered to responsibly and creatively meet our energy needs.

Project Leader: Dr Casey HubertSponsors: EPSRC Career Acceleration Fellowship
Shell (Bart Lomans), Chevron (Paul Evans), Danish Technology Institute (Ketil Sørensen), Rawwater Engineering (Bob Eden), Computer Modelling Group Ltd. Calgary (Dennis Coombe), Geological Survey of Canada Sidney (Vaughn Barrie), Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology (Antje Boetius, Arzhang Khalili, Marcel Kuypers), Center for Geomicrobiology Aarhus University (Bo Barker Jørgensen), University of Potsdam (Jens Kallmeyer), CEH Wallingford (Andrew Whiteley), University of Vienna (Alexander Loy), Glasgow University (Bill Sloan)
Start/end dates:

Project Details

In particular, naturally occurring communities can be exploited as green technology for souring remediation and microbe dispersal can be quantified to underpin new predictive tools for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Souring control research will focus on sulfate-reducing bacteria and archaea in the deep biosphere and oil-derived electron donors they utilize during H2S production. Nitrate injection as a way of shifting subsurface biogeochemistry to remediate H2S will be investigated extensively.

Seawater injection into oil fields may be introducing relevant microorganisms into reservoir environments. The fact that deep biosphere microbes (e.g. thermophiles) are present in the cold ocean has led to the hypothesis that leakage of oil and gas from subsurface reservoirs provides a dispersal conduit for organisms, hence their distribution will be investigated using quantitative methods.


Hubert C*, Voordouw G, Mayer B. 2009 Elucidating microbial processes in nitrate- and sulfate-reducing systems using sulfur and oxygen isotope ratios: the example of oil reservoir souring control. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73: 3864-3879.

Hubert C*, Loy A, Nickel M, Arnosti C, Baranyi C, Brüchert V, Ferdelman T, Finster K, Christensen F, Rezende JR, Vandieken V, Jørgensen BB. 2009 A constant flux of diverse thermophilic bacteria into the cold arctic seabed. Science 325: 1541-1544. (featured in Science Perspectives, and evaluated by Faculty of 1000 Biology as “Exceptional”

Hubert C*, Judd A. 2010 Using microorganisms as prospecting agents in oil and gas exploration. Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology Ed. Timmis KN (Springer, Berlin) Vol. 4, Chapter 23, pp 2713- 2725.

Hubert C* 2010 Microbial ecology of oil reservoir souring control by nitrate injection. Handbook of Hydrocarbon and Lipid Microbiology Ed. Timmis KN (Springer, Berlin) Vol. 4, Chapter 26, pp. 2753-2766.

Academic Staff

  • Dr Casey Hubert