In the quest to get more oil from the ground, Glori Energy is enlisting microbes.
The Houston, Texas-based company today filed to go public on the stock market in a bid to raise $115 million with a biotechnology designed to extract more oil from existing wells.
Well more than half of the oil in oil wells typically stays trapped underground because conventional techniques can't reach it all. About 10 percent to 15 percent of available oil can come out based on pressure. Then drillers flood wells with water in one well to help push the oil out of a second well, explained Michael Pavia, the managing director of Glori Energy, in an August interview.
Rather than use brute force, Glori Energy has developed a technique called Aero which stimulates the growth of underground bacteria to change the flow patterns in the porous underground rock, Pavia explained. The growth of bacteria can also act like a surfactant between oil and water to ease the flow of oil, he said.
The Aero system injects nutrients into the water being pumped into a well to grow more of the desired bacteria. The system also helps remediate the well water which is contaminated with different chemicals, Pavia said.
In tests, the technique has been able to recover 9 percent to 12 percent of the original oil in a well, according to the company's S-1 filing. In the U.S., that would represent billions of barrels of oil, Pavia said.
There are at least two other companies that are using this microbial approach to extract more fossil fuels from existing wells and mines. Ciris Energy and Luca Technologies, which filed to go public earlier this year, use biological techniques to stimulate the growth of natural gas from coal seams.