ONGC microbes to eat toxic waste and pipeline wax

Vol 12, PW 15 (18 Dec 08) Exploration & Production

Naturally occurring microbes are the new foot soldiers in ONGC’s war to clean growing expanses of waste sludge from oil production at well sites across India.

These microbes have an appetite for toxic sludge, which they chew up and render environmentally harmless over four to six months. ONGC began a microbe test project in April 2006 to rejuvenate vast tracts of contaminated land around three Gujarat fields (North Kadi, Bechraji and North Kadi Old) in its Mehsana Asset, which produces 42,000 b/d – the company’s largest onshore producer.

Testing, we hear, was successful. PETROWATCH learns that ONGC has now extended the programme across India with joint venture partner The Energy Resource Institute’s (TERI) Biotech unit, part of a Delhi-based think tank run by RK Pachauri who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with former US Vice-President Al Gore for their work in highlighting the dangers of climate change.

“Such organised soil treatment is happening for the first time in South Asia,â€‌ ONGC tells us. The ONGC-TERI Biotech soil treatment venture is yielding interest from Shell, Indian Oil, HPCL, Reliance, BPCL, Oil India, Abu Dhabi National Oil Company and the Kuwait National Oil Company.

Another set of microbes at Mehsana, and in Assam, is coming to ONGC’s rescue by â€کeating’ wax that clogs up oil wells. This problem is particularly severe during winter for wells at the Balol, Santhal, Lanwa and Bechraji fields in north Gujarat, which produce heavy oil that solidifies in the well tubing, choking the flow.

ONGC has traditionally used metal scrapers to remove the wax but at times the device breaks and gets lodged in the well tubing that has then to be expensively â€کworked over’ to recover the piece. There are no such problems with microbes.

Also developed by ONGC-TERI Biotech, the wax-eating microbes were put to the test at 16 wells in Mehsana (Gujarat) and Borholla (Assam) and the results were a pleasant surprised.