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Anti-microbial Expertise


Oilfield bacteria can lead to microbial-influenced corrosion (MIC) that ruins equipment and shuts down production. Bacteria had become a major problem for Shell’s aging Pinedale field in Wyoming, and it took the merging of Nalco and Champion’s RD&E teams and a significant investment in cutting edge technology to solve it.

Prior to the merger, Champion had begun growing biofilms and using a confocal microscope to analyze the bacteria. But following the Nalco Champion merger, the combined team invested in a flow cytometer—a tool used to diagnose health disorders, particularly blood cancers, but completely new to oil and gas analysis.

Said Tom Tekavec, production chemist with Shell, "The legacy Champion team brought with them a good visual perspective of the situation. The DNA expertise of the Nalco team strengthened the approach. We needed both perspectives to close the technology gap."

Nalco Champion brought flow cytometry from the medical lab to the oilfield.

For Pinedale, the team incorporated nearly all of its anti-microbial capabilities. We verified the risk levels for H2S and microbial-influenced corrosion, replicated and analyzed the DNA of the bacteria and grew the bacteria as a biofilm to explore every biocide option. We identified a biocide, and are scheduled to begin field trials. Likely late 2014, the microbiology team will audit the Pinedale system using Nalco Champion’s AccuCountTM technology.

Nalco Champion RD&E technologies contributing to a Pinedale bacteria solution include:

  • CDC biofilm reactor used to grow representative biofilms from field water samples
  • Confocoal laser scanning microscope, often used in cell biology or genetics, provides high resolution in-focus images from selected depths that are subsequently reconstructed with computers
  • Flow cytometer to enable analysis of thousands of cells per second
  • Nalco-Champion exclusive AccuCount technology used to determine the total actively growing (ATP) and dormant (AMP) microorganisms in a sample
  • Extensive DNA sequencing with the use of PCR, polymerase chain reaction, a biochemical technology often used in medical and biological research
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