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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2019 Jan 23;85(3). pii: e01891-18. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01891-18. Print 2019 Feb 1.

Metabolites of an Oil Field Sulfide-Oxidizing, Nitrate-Reducing Sulfurimonas sp. Cause Severe Corrosion.

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School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom
ExxonMobil Upstream Research Company, Spring, Texas, USA.
Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Bremen, Germany.
School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
School of Engineering, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Oil reservoir souring and associated material integrity challenges are of great concern to the petroleum industry. The bioengineering strategy of nitrate injection has proven successful for controlling souring in some cases, but recent reports indicate increased corrosion in nitrate-treated produced water reinjection facilities. Sulfide-oxidizing, nitrate-reducing bacteria (soNRB) have been suggested to be the cause of such corrosion. Using the model soNRB Sulfurimonas sp. strain CVO obtained from an oil field, we conducted a detailed analysis of soNRB-induced corrosion at initial nitrate-to-sulfide (N/S) ratios relevant to oil field operations. The activity of strain CVO caused severe corrosion rates of up to 0.27 millimeters per year (mm y-1) and up to 60-μm-deep pitting within only 9 days. The highest corrosion during the growth of strain CVO was associated with the production of zero-valent sulfur during sulfide oxidation and the accumulation of nitrite, when initial N/S ratios were high. Abiotic corrosion tests with individual metabolites confirmed biogenic zero-valent sulfur and nitrite as the main causes of corrosion under the experimental conditions. Mackinawite (FeS) deposited on carbon steel surfaces accelerated abiotic reduction of both sulfur and nitrite, exacerbating corrosion. Based on these results, a conceptual model for nitrate-mediated corrosion by soNRB is proposed.IMPORTANCE Ambiguous reports of corrosion problems associated with the injection of nitrate for souring control necessitate a deeper understanding of this frequently applied bioengineering strategy. Sulfide-oxidizing, nitrate-reducing bacteria have been proposed as key culprits, despite the underlying microbial corrosion mechanisms remaining insufficiently understood. This study provides a comprehensive characterization of how individual metabolic intermediates of the microbial nitrogen and sulfur cycles can impact the integrity of carbon steel infrastructure. The results help explain the dramatic increases seen at times in corrosion rates observed during nitrate injection in field and laboratory trials and point to strategies for reducing adverse integrity-related side effects of nitrate-based souring mitigation.


microbiologically influenced corrosion; nitrate reduction; oil field microbiology; souring control; sulfide oxidation

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