Selective plugging by microbial biomass is one of the proposed mechanisms for improving reservoir sweep efficiency in fractured reservoirs. In this study, the potential of Bacillus licheniformis strains isolated from oil contaminated soil from the Sultanate of Oman was tested for their ability to grow in induced fractures in carbonate rocks and to divert subsequent injection water to the unswept matrix zones.

Three Bacillus licheniformis strains were tested with name codes; B29, B17 and W16. Their growth behavior using different nitrogen sources; yeast extract, peptone and urea was investigated. Glucose and sucrose were tested as carbon sources. Carbon/nitrogen ratios were optimized where it was found that sucrose was the carbon source that maximized bacterial growth at 2% concentration and yeast extract was the selected nitrogen source with concentration of 0.1%. The combination of B. licheniformis strain W16 in a minimal medium containing sucrose was the optimum condition for maximum cell growth within 10-12 hours of incubation. Standard Indiana limestone core plugs were used for coreflooding experiments where a fracture was simulated by slicing the cores vertically into two sections using a thin blade. The bacterial cells were injected into the cores and the ability of the microbes to grow and plug the fracture was examined. Scanning electron microscopy was used to prove the growth of the microbial cells in the fracture after the experiment.

Coreflooding experiments showed promising results where enhancement of oil recovery was observed after bacterial injection. A total of 27-30% of the residual oil was produced after 11 hours of incubation. This shows the high potential of using microbial biomass for selective plugging in fractured reservoirs.

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