Dr. Gerrit Voordouw graduated from the University of Calgary with a Ph.D. in Physical
Biochemistry in 1975. He joined the University of Calgary as a Professor in 1986 and, since that
time, has done extensive research on oil field bacteria, particularly Sulfate Reducing Bacteria
(SRB). Gerrit was awarded the NSERC Industrial Research Chair in Petroleum Microbiology in
Dr. Voordouw oversees the Petroleum Microbiology Research Group here at the University of
Calgary. The broad research goals of this group are to ‘green’ production from oil field and oil
sands environments with a focus on sulfur cycle management, corrosion prevention and
Sulfur Cycle Management
The overall objectives in this area are to stem the increase in sulphide concentrations (souring)
in conventional oil production by field wide injection of nitrates to stimulate nitrate-reducing
bacteria (NRB) down-hole. Defining parameters that indicate successful application of this
technology and understanding how it can be applied in low temperature fields, such as found in
the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, is also an objective.
For this area, the group aims to determine whether field-wide injection of nitrate for souring
control gives Microbially Enhanced Oil Recovery (MEOR) and if so through which mechanism.
They are also determining whether microbial attack of oil sands can contribute to production of
the resource with reduced energy input and associated greenhouse gas emissions, as well as
whether microbial processes can improve densification in tailings ponds while reducing
greenhouse gas emissions.
Environmental deterioration, including changes to the Earth’s atmosphere is caused in large
part by the World’s huge energy use. This deterioration is accelerated by the fact that the
Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI), an index of how efficiently we produce our energy
is sliding towards lower values. Developing biotechnologies for the fossil fuels industry can
decrease production associated emissions from oil sands and prolong the economic life of
conventional reservoirs. Because of the vast scale of fossil fuel use, even small improvements
will offer big returns and will have positive effects on the environmental health of our planet.