Exploiting microbes in the petroleum field: Analyzing the credibility of microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR)

Marzuqa Quraishi, Shashi Kant Bhatia, Soumya Pandit, Piyush Kumar Gupta, Vivek Rangarajan, Dibyajit Lahiri, Sunita Varjani, Sanjeet Mehariya, Yung Hun Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Crude oil is a major energy source that is exploited globally to achieve economic growth. To meet the growing demands for oil, in an environment of stringent environmental regulations and economic and technical pressure, industries have been required to develop novel oil salvaging techniques. The remaining ~70% of the world’s conventional oil (one-third of the available total petroleum) is trapped in depleted and marginal reservoirs, and could thus be potentially recovered and used. The only means of extracting this oil is via microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR). This tertiary oil recovery method employs indigenous microorganisms and their metabolic products to enhance oil mobilization. Although a significant amount of research has been undertaken on MEOR, the absence of convincing evidence has contributed to the petroleum industry’s low interest, as evidenced by the issuance of 400+ patents on MEOR that have not been accepted by this sector. The majority of the world’s MEOR field trials are briefly described in this review. However, the presented research fails to provide valid verification that the microbial system has the potential to address the identified constraints. Rather than promising certainty, MEOR will persist as an unverified concept unless further research and investigations are carried out.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4684
Issue number15
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Biosurfactants
  • Crude oil
  • Field trials
  • Microbial enhanced oil recovery (MEOR)
  • Microbial metabolic by-products
  • Microbial metabolic pathways
  • Numerical simulation and modelling
  • Petroleum biotechnology
  • Reservoir dynamics
  • Species properties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Optimization
  • Energy (miscellaneous)
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment


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