Effect of inorganic nutrients on bacterial community composition in oil-bearing sandstones from the subsurface strata of an onshore oil reservoir and its potential use in Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery

PLoS One. 2018 Nov 29;13(11):e0198050. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0198050. eCollection 2018.


Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR) is a promising strategy to improve recovery of residual oil in reservoirs, which can be performed by promoting specific indigenous microorganisms. In this study, we performed preliminary evaluation of the possibility of conducting MEOR at Mae Soon reservoir, an onshore reservoir in Northern Thailand. The reservoir's physicochemical characteristics, including the characteristics of the wells, the oil-bearing sandstone cores, and the reservoir's produced water, were determined. The microbiological characteristics of the oil wells in the reservoir were also investigated by submerging the reservoir's sandstone core samples, obtained from 6 oil wells, in the reservoir's produced water and in the produced water added with inorganic nutrients (KNO3 and NaH2PO4). The uncultured bacteria in both treatments were determined, using tagged 16S rRNA gene amplicon with Ion Torrent Sequencing Analysis. The effects of inorganic nutrients and the reservoir's parameters on the bacterial communities were analysed. A total number of 16,828 OTUs were taxonomically classified into 89 classes and 584 genera. In the controls (sandstone cores submerged in the produced water), the dominant bacterial populations were related to Deinococcus-Thermus, and Betaproteobacteria; while in the nutrient treated samples, there was a marked increase in the relative abundance of Gammaproteobacteria in three samples. Thermus, Acinetobacter, and Pseudomonas were the most abundant genera, and these are potential microorganisms for MEOR. Analysis of correlations between physiochemical properties of the reservoir and bacterial genera, using spearman's correlation analysis, suggested that some of the reservoir's properties, especially of the well and the rock, could influence some bacterial genera. To our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of the effect of inorganic nutrients on alteration of bacterial communities attached to reservoir's rock, and how the bacterial, physical, and chemical properties of a reservoir were co-analysed to serve as a basis for designing a MEOR process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Betaproteobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • DNA, Bacterial / isolation & purification*
  • Gammaproteobacteria / isolation & purification*
  • Oil and Gas Fields / microbiology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S
  • Thailand


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 16S

Grant support

This work was financially supported by the National Research Council of Thailand (NRCT), and Environmental Science Research Center (ESRC) and Graduate School of Chiang Mai University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.