Petroleum Microbiology-Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Department of Biological Sciences
University of Calgary
One of the toughest problems one can tackle is no doubt to try to contribute somehow to improving our energy future. The scale of the problem is enormous. The timeline is pressing, in view of mounting environmental problems, but consensus on best ways forward is non-existent. The holy grail is to uncover new energy sources, which have a high ratio of energy-returned-on-energy-invested (a feature critical for maintaining a modern society) and are environmentally benign. In this sobering scenario petroleum microbiology can contribute by trying to increase the life span of conventional oil production and to decrease the environmental impact of production from the oil sands. Our work in this area has included monitoring the injection of nitrate into oil fields, reshaping the subsurface community to produce less sulfide, has focused on microbial communities in pipelines and how these are affected by routine procedures aimed to decrease corrosion, and on characterizing microbial communities in Alberta’s oil sands as an initial step towards better methods of production. There has been progress, even though this may not amount to more than a drop in a bucket.
Dr. Gerrit Voordouw is a noted microbiologist at the University of Calgary. His focus will be "Petroleum Microbiology -- Between a Rock and a Hard Place." An expert on the study of how microbes clean up toxic metals near mines, he is Project Leader for a Genome Canada project entitled "Metagenomics for Greener Production and Extraction of Hydrocarbon Energy." .
Dr. Voordouw's bachelor's and masters' degrees in chemistry were granted from the University of Utrecht in The Netherlands, and his Ph.D from the University of Calgary. His research interests include molecular biology, genomics and physiology of sulfate-reducting bacteria, and petroleum microbiology -- sulfur cycle management, corrosion control, and improved production.