SBIR Phase I: Using microbes as a cost effective sensor network to improve oil and gas production

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

2025 Ash St
Denver, CO 80207
Principal Investigator, Firm POC


The broader impact/commercial potential of this Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) project is to increase the efficiency of oil production and to decrease the percentage of oil that is currently inaccessible using bioinformatics software to predict oil well features based on subsurface microbes. Over 50% of domestic oil reservoirs cannot be economically produced today, and a lack of information about the subsurface is a key roadblock to increasing this efficiency. The goal is to help unlock $1 trillion of economic value in domestic energy potential currently inaccessible with current technology. This project seeks to utilize the subsurface microbes as a network of sensors that provide novel information for oil and gas companies. This information will be used to inform key decisions that increase production with more targeted approaches that result in greater U.S. energy independence while reducing the environmental impact of oil drilling and production. In so doing, the project will provide disruptive value in the $12B reservoir data and well logging industry. This SBIR Phase I project proposes to use microbial communities that are native to the subsurface as an advanced and cost effective sensor network that describe key properties of the oil reservoirs. Deep within the subsurface, there are trillions of unique interactions of the native microbes to their ecosystem. By combining advances in cloud computing, DNA sequencing, and novel software analytics, this project will demonstrate that these microbial communities correlate to meaningful production parameters for the oil and gas industry. In so doing, the project will demonstrate at pilot scale that this new information source can be utilized as a novel, non-invasive, low-cost reservoir characterization tool that allows the industry to maximize hydrocarbon production while minimizing environmental impact.