Microbially induced corrosion (MIC) is a serious problem for oil & gas producers, causing billions of dollars of direct damage to pipelines and field installations as well as to offshore mooring chains and structures annually, and much more through loss of production and environmental or safety impacts. Finding new solutions to slow the growth of bacteria or mitigate their impact could significantly increase the working life of equipment and reduce annual replacement costs.
That’s why Battelle is investing in a number of research initiatives to help the industry better understand the mechanisms of MIC, the bacteria that cause it and innovative ways to mitigate it.
MIC is one of the leading causes of corrosion in the oil and gas industry. Bacteria adhere to metal components in large colonies called “biofilms.” These biofilms allow bacteria to stick to each other and to metal surfaces. Some kinds of bacteria produce chemicals that damage the structure of the metal, leading to corrosion. The effects of bacteria can significantly accelerate the rate of corrosion and failure for subsea, surface, downhole and land-based equipment.
There is a great need in the industry to better understand which bacterial species are responsible for MIC and the mechanisms by which MIC occurs. Battelle is engaging in pioneering genomic research to define the populations of bacteria that make up biofilms on oil & gas equipment and determine which species are implicated in corrosion. This will allow us to better assess corrosion risk and develop more effective and targeted mitigation approaches for MIC.
Detecting MIC in the Field
Battelle is working on new detection technologies for faster and more accurate identification of the bacteria responsible for MIC. We recently developed a new handheld detection device that allows operators to rapidly identify the genetic markers of MIC in the field instead of waiting for laboratory-based results. The innovative field DNA identification kit can be used to monitor bacterial growth in pipelines, downhole equipment and other critical infrastructure.
Diagnosing potential MIC problems in the field allows for more rapid and targeted remedy selection, such as dosing of effective biocides. The MIC detector extracts DNA from collected samples, and amplifies and detects DNA fragments specific to the species of interest. This allows operators to detect emerging bacterial problems and put remedies in place before significant corrosion damage has occurred.
Advanced Materials Solutions for MIC
Battelle is also investigating new advanced material solutions to mitigate the effects of MIC. Antimicrobial materials may be able to slow the build-up of corrosion-causing bacterial colonies.
One ongoing investigation at Battelle’s Florida Materials Research Facility (FMRF) is testing antimicrobial sleeves for offshore mooring chains. Battelle is evaluating eight different biocides that have been infused into polymer sheets and wrapped around mooring chains. At FMRF, the chains are exposed to the elements in one of the most corrosive environments in North America. Researchers are monitoring corrosion development in treated and untreated mooring chains below the seawater surface, at the tidal zone and in the splash zone to evaluate the efficacy of different biocidal materials for MIC control. The antimicrobial sleeves could significantly increase the lifespan of offshore mooring chains.
Battelle is co-funding many of these research initiatives. As the world’s largest nonprofit research and development organization, we continually invest in innovation to find solutions that benefit our clients and humankind. Our MIC research is helping us solve a pernicious problem that causes significant losses for the oil & gas industry and to the economy as a whole.