Reactive Transport Modeling of Induced Selective Plugging by Leuconostoc Mesenteroides in Carbonate Formations

Javier Vilcáez, Li Li, Dinghao Wu, Susan S. Hubbard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


A process-based mechanistic reactive transport model was developed to understand how in-situ coupled processes and operational factors affect selective plugging of reactive carbonate formations by the fermenting bacteria Leuconostoc mesenteroides that produces a plugging polymer dextran. The growth and transport of L. mesenteroides and the associated (bio) geochemical reactions were simulated explicitly with enzyme activity at the field scale over spatial extents of hundreds of meters. Simulations were performed to explore controls on selective bioplugging of high permeability zones in a representative carbonate reservoir, a process that can be used to improve oil sweep efficiency through lower permeability layers. Simulation results indicate that dextran production and the effectiveness of plugging can be largely affected by sucrose and bacteria injection rates. Selective plugging of high permeability zones can only be achieved when the injection rates are high compared to the rates of dextran production. Otherwise, plugging only occurs at the vicinity of injection wells. Due to the dependence of enzyme activity on pH and the reactive nature of carbonate formations, the chemistry of the injection and the formation water is also important. The injection of sucrose and L. mesenteroides at the optimum pH for dextran production (5.2) leads to the dissolution of calcite and an increase in pH levels. However, the resulting pH does not suppress plugging with dextran. Lactic acid and CO2 formed during the growth of L. mesenteroides buffers the pH of water to levels between 5.2 and 7.0 for continued dextran production. At neutral and basic pH levels, induced precipitation of calcite does not significantly modify the permeability profile at carbonate concentrations typically found in oilfield formation waters. This is the first work that examines the controlling parameters that affect selective plugging of carbonate formations at the field scale within the context of enhanced oil recovery. The demonstrated approach can be used to identify optimal operational conditions for enhanced oil recovery and other applications where selective plugging can be beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)813-828
Number of pages16
JournalGeomicrobiology Journal
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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