New Biochemical Technology Ready To Retrieve, Purify Heaviest Crude Oil

Brookhaven Lab Patents Licensed Exclusively To A Long Island Company

UPTON, NY - Tiny, naturally occurring bacteria may be the answer to two problems that weigh heavily on the oil industry: vast reserves of crude oil left in the ground by conventional extraction techniques, and crudes too heavy and impure to refine easily into clean-burning fuel.

A new technology that uses special bacterial biocatalysts has been shown to remove up to half of the impurities like sulfur, nitrogen and metals from crude oil either before or after it is removed from the ground.. When injected directly into oil wells, the biocatalysts contribute to the breakdown of the crude for easier extraction - a form of microbially enhanced oil recovery that could soon get its first test in China, in one of the world's largest oil fields.

The technique was invented and patented by Eugene Premuzic and Mow Lin, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory. It has now been licensed exclusively to BioCat of Setauket, NY.

In either application, it improves crude oil's physical and chemical properties, increasing its value and reducing emissions when the crude is refined and used as fuel. Major oil companies Chevron, Shell and Texaco are working together with BioCat to complement a current program at BNL directed toward developing technology so it can be applied on an industrial scale.

Said Premuzic, "This approach holds the key to the cost-effective recovery of even the heaviest crudes, which make up over 60 percent of the world's known oil reserves but which are now trapped below the surface and are difficult and costly to recover by conventional methods."

Added BioCat's Phil Palmedo, "This approach looks beyond the short term to meet the long-term strategic needs of the nation and the world. Oil resources once deemed out of practical reach will now be made available for processing so that the resulting fuels will burn more cl

Contact: Kara Villamil
DOE/Brookhaven National Laboratory

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