Kinetics of thermally inactivated ureases and management of sand production through ureolysis-induced mineral precipitation
Morasko, Vincent John
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Biocement has the potential to seal subsurface hydraulic fractures, manipulate subsurface flow paths to enhance oil recovery, treat fractured cement, stabilize soil structures and minimize dust dispersal. Biocement can be formed using the urease enzyme from various sources (bacteria, plant, or fungi) to break down urea into carbonate, combining with calcium for use in engineering applications such as biocement production. Higher temperatures, pressures, and extreme pH conditions may be encountered as these engineering applications expand deeper into the subsurface. Temperatures beyond 1000 meters can exceed 80°C, potentially rapidly inactivating the enzyme. The first part of this study focused on monitoring urea hydrolysis catalyzed by jack bean urease at temperatures ranging from 20-80°C. An increasing rate of urease inactivation was observed with increasing temperatures and first-order models described the kinetics of urea hydrolysis and enzyme inactivation properly. The second part of this study focused on developing a technology to mitigate sand transport in oil and gas wells. This study addressed a method to cement sand in the subsurface so that it is not returned when oil or gas is extracted. As the sand leaves the formation, it can cause damage in the subsurface, leading to economic concerns, as well as reducing the lifespan of pumps, piping and other components on the well pad. A reactor system was developed to mimic a subsurface oil well that produces sand. Biocement production was promoted within the reactor, utilizing common sources of urease (Sporosarcina pasteurii and Canavalia ensiformis or jack bean meal). The resultant calcium carbonate/sand mass was subjected to elevated flowrates, simulating field conditions where sand is potentially fluidized and potentially transported into the wellbore. It was shown that biocement can reduce sand transport while allowing for higher flow rates than conditions without biocement. The findings from this study broaden the potential application range of biocementation technologies into higher temperature environments. Applying biocement specifically to sand mitigation may have significant environmental, economic, and safety implications within the natural resource industry.