Monitoring Microbial Corrosion in Large Oilfield Water Systems
- E.Y. Chen (Aramco) | R.B. Chen (Aramco)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- July 1984
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 1,171 - 1,176
- 1984. Society of Petroleum Engineers
- 4.1.2 Separation and Treating, 4.2.3 Materials and Corrosion, 4.2 Pipelines, Flowlines and Risers, 1.8 Formation Damage, 5.3.2 Multiphase Flow
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Monitoring of microbial corrosion is always difficult because of the sessile nature of bacteria and the lack of meaningful correlation between routine bacteria counts and bacterial activity. This problem is further aggravated in a large oilfield water system because of size and sampling difficulties. This paper discusses some monitoring techniques currently used in the oil industry, their limitations, and possible areas for improvement. These improved techniques are in use or will be implemented in the Aramco systems.
Microbial corrosion has caused some failures in seawater injection systems. Whether or not microbial corrosion represents a major corrosion mechanism in the oilfield water system is a controversial question. However, it has certainly become a major concern in recent years.
There are two approaches in dealing with microbial corrosion problems in a large oilfield water system. One approach is to start treating the system with bactericide in conjunction with regular scraping when the system is commissioned. The other is to treat the system only when an impending microbial-related problem is clearly defined. in either case, monitoring of microbial corrosion is essential.
The first approach is more or less a precautionary measure. The treatment and selection of bactericides is usually based on past experience and laboratory evaluation tests. While the treatment is being implemented, a reliable monitoring program could assess the effectiveness of the current program of microbial corrosion control.
In the second case, monitoring of microbial corrosion is even more important. it would provide timely information toward implementation of a treatment program before the system could get out of control.
The industry's awareness of microbial corrosion has been indicated by the number of papers published in recent years on this subject. These articles cover a wide spectrum of interest from fundamental corrosion mechanisms to case studies, detection methods, control measures, etc. Although it is not clear to what extent microorganisms are responsible for the observed field corrosion failures, the general consensus still favors early establishment of a routine microbial corrosion monitoring program. The best approach seems to he the establishment of solid baseline data for the system after which any significant future deviation can be interpreted as a sign of a potential problem.
The following sections describe the current methods used for routine monitoring, specifically for Aramco's large oilfield water systems. The limitations of these methods, the difficulties encountered, and some suggested studies for modification and improvement are discussed also.
Current Monitoring Methods
The methods currently used by Aramco can be categorized as (l) cell counts in water, (2) metal surface examination, (3) scraping solids analysis, (4) water quality analysis, and (5) evaluation of current bactericide treatment.
Cell Counts in Water. These are used to detect bacterial organisms and their concentrations. it is recognized that confirmation of free-flowing bacteria in the water does not automatically mean trouble. However, if bacteria counts demonstrate a definite increase across the system, or over a period of time, the odds are that bacteria are active and working on the metal somewhere in the system.
Cell counts routinely monitored include sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB), general aerobic bacteria (OAB), iron bacteria, and others. SRB are widely recognized to he primarily responsible for bacteria-induced corrosion in an anaerobic environment. Depending on the nature of the sample to be tested and the types of problems encountered (or expected) in the field, one or several different enumeration techniques are employed.
For field work, the method generally used by Aramco is culturing of samples in liquid growth media specifically designed for detecting a certain group of organisms. These laboratory media are prepared using the appropriate field water as a base, with addition of general growth nutrients for the organisms. The use of field water to prepare the media provides a water composition similar to that in which the bacteria originated. The media are supplemented with other ingredients to create an environment conducive to growth of certain bacteria (e.g., certain reducing agents have to he added into the SRB media). The media then are dispensed into serum vials at exactly 9 mL [9 cm3] each and sealed with rubber stoppers and aluminum seals.
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