Biosurfactant-producing Bacillus are present in produced brines from Oklahoma oil reservoirs with a wide range of salinities

D Randall Simpson, Nisha Ravi Natraj, Michael J McInerney, Kathleen E Duncan
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 2011, 91 (4): 1083-93
Nine wells producing from six different reservoirs with salinities ranging from 2.1% to 15.9% were surveyed for presence of surface-active compounds and biosurfactant-producing microbes. Degenerate primers were designed to detect the presence of the surfactin/lichenysin (srfA3/licA3) gene involved in lipopeptide biosurfactant production in members of Bacillus subtilis/licheniformis group and the rhlR gene involved in regulation of rhamnolipid production in pseudomonads. Polymerase chain reaction amplification, cloning, and sequencing confirmed the presence of the srfA3/licA3 genes in brines collected from all nine wells. The presence of B. subtilis/licheniformis strains was confirmed by sequencing two other genes commonly used for taxonomic identification of bacteria, gyrA (gyrase A) and the 16S rRNA gene. Neither rhlR nor 16S rRNA gene related to pseudomonads was detected in any of the brines. Intrinsic levels of surface-active compounds in brines were low or not detected, but biosurfactant production could be stimulated by nutrient addition. Supplementation with a known biosurfactant-producing Bacillus strain together with nutrients increased biosurfactant production. The genetic potential to produce lipopeptide biosurfactants (e.g., srfA3/licA3 gene) is prevalent, and nutrient addition stimulated biosurfactant production in brines from diverse reservoirs, suggesting that a biostimulation approach for biosurfactant-mediated oil recovery may be technically feasible.

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