Sheldon is Awesome

Congratulations to Sheldon for the Emmy Award. The Big Bang Theory is one of my favorite TV series ever. I am glad to hear the news that Dr. SheldonCooper (Jim Parsons) got the best actor of Emmy Award this year. Last year he got the nomination, but he lost it. This year, in fact his performance was not so good as last year I think. I believe the judges enjoy his performance since season 1. From this series, people got to know the difference between nerds and jerks. I am looking forward to the new season of one beauty with four scientific geeks soon.

By the way, I found a guy in the local Hardee’s looks similar to Jim. The appearance is the appearance. He has the completely different temperament from Sheldon. The genius is living in the drama only.

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Petroleum Microbiology

This afternoon, I borrowed a book Petroleum Microbiology from the library. This book was edited by two Frenchmen, Bernard Ollivier, and Michel Magot. Dr. Michael J. McInerney made the forward to this book, who is well known in the area of microbial enhanced oil recovery. There are four sections in the book, Microbiology of oil fields, Pernicious effects of bacterial activity, biotechnology and oil production, and bioremediation of hydrocarbon contaminated environments. Within Section III, Dr. Michael J. McInerney and his colleagues comprehensively reviewed the history of MEOR. From 2001 to 2004, I compiled a book on the advancement of MEOR in China (I am not sure whether it has been published or not, since I have turned out the manuscript in early 2005). At that time, not so many reference books available for me. Fortunately the topic was narrowed to China, not all over the world, on which I have spent a lot of time and energy. After I left China in the fall of 2004, the technology made rapid progress. More and more projects have been implemented there. Also, the publications about the topic came into the market and people could fetch them much easily. Several days ago, I encountered a book called Petroleum Microbiology Oil Production Technology. I remember the first author of this book has ever published a small blue textbook about MEOR more than 10 years ago. I tried to search the old book online, but it seems that it was not available. Let us continue talking about Petroleum Microbiology. I believe Dr. Michael J. McInerney’s more than 20 pages’ work can give you a very impressive imagine on MEOR. Else, you can read Dr. Lazar’s review Microbial Enhanced Oil Recovery published on Petroleum Science and Technology. Another alternative review is written by Dr. Lewis R. Brown from Mississippi State University, which was published on Current Opinion on Microbiology as Microbial Enhanced Oil Recoery (MEOR). Also there are several reviews on onepetro.org, the online library of Society of Petroleum Engineers. Personally I prefer to the publications on books or journals.

Forbidden City

Note: This is not guide to the Forbidden City. In this post, I wrote down a trip to the famous place with someone I believe I should introduce to people here.

If you have opportunity to visit China, you should go for the Capital of China, and Forbidden City is a must-go place. I have been there for twice, when I was a graduate student in China. For the first time, I went there with a friend from Korea. Later, one year after the first time, I went there again with a guest from Russia, Dr. Valery F. Galchenko, the Director of Winogradsky Institute of Microbiology, Russian Academy of Sciences. He was not very tall, but looked energetic. We walked very quickly, thus the trip was extremely short. During the tour, mainly we talked about the Forbidden City.  Sometimes, he introduced some projects he did before. We entered the Forbidden City through one side of the main entrance, Meridian Gate and left through another side of it. As we know, the Forbidden City is the world’s largest surviving palace complex and covers 720,000 square meters. (In fact, wikipedia has a comprehensive introduction to the Forbidden City.)

Vista runs really, really slowly. I hade to stop and resume writing Later.

Oil Plume from Well Macondo 242

Note: This post made me feel very bad. After I wrote it, the headache almost killed me. My clumsy fingers did give me much help. How can I get back my healthy?

I guess everybody still remember the surprising scene that oil flew into the ocean from the gusher Macondo 242.

Fig 1. An image from a live video feed the oil plume is seen on the BP.com website early Wednesday, May 26, 2010. The oil company planned a “top kill” designed to choke off the gusher of oil at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by force-feeding it heavy drilling mud and cement early Wednesday May 26, 2010.

Initially, people are concerning how much oil have leaked from the well. In the permit drilling the well, BP estimated under the worst scenario, the flow rate could be higher to 162,000 BOPD. Later, the internal document of BP exposed by Congressman showed the worst case flow could up to 100,000 BOPD. The official flow rate varied with the time from 1000 BOPD to 60000 BOPD. The final estimate reported that 53,000 barrels per day were escaping from the well just before it was capped on July 15. It is believed that the daily flow rate diminished over time, starting at about 62,000 barrels per day and decreasing as the reservoir of hydrocarbons feeding the gusher was gradually depleted. The media and the public was angry and surprised at the numbers and BP’s attitude on the numbers.

Later, the fate of the oil leaked into the ocean became the focus. Last week, Science Express published a paper named Tracking Hydrocarbon Plume Transport and Biodegradation at Deepwater Horizon by scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). This paper was based on the results of the research in mid-June. The size and location of the oil plume questioned the government findings that the vast majority of the oil has either evaporated or been burned, skimmed and recovered from the well head or dispersed on August 4th. The WHOI scientists using three ways to track the dissolved oxygen within the oil plume: microelectrode sensors, “Winkler titration tests,” and mass spectrometry. Research showed that the dissolved oxygen level within the 22 miles long, 1.2 miles wide, more than 650 ft high, 3600 ft deep in the Gulf of Mexico had not dropped enough by mid-June to suggest bacteria were breaking down the oil.

But early this week, the Journal published another paper named Deep-Sea Oil Plume Enriches Indigenous Oil-Degrading Bacteria by scientists from Lawrence National Lab, which focus on the bacteria itself based on the same dissolved oxygen data. The findings are conflict to the previous paper. I am surprised at the quick response by the authors, and the journal. The team looked at water both inside and outside the plume, analyzing its chemistry, physics, and even the DNA of its inhabitants. The results showed that ocean bacteria are aware of the oily invasion of their territory, and they’re responding accordingly.

Again, I am surprised to see that within several days, Science Express (provides electronic publication of selected Science papers in advance of print. Some editorial changes may occur between the online version and the final printed version) published such two papers with conflicts. Which one is correct? To be honest, I do not know. If I am optimism, the second paper is my type; else, the first is my choice. Let’s wait and see the results of the following research work.

Oil-Eating Microbes

Last week, David Biello, the associate editor at Scientific American, published a series of pictures of microbes that eat the oil from the gusher Macando 242. In fact, the microorganisms that could eat the oil (hydrocarbon) are common. As we can find, there are several kinds of microorganisms within the wastewater treatment plant. One of the most important indicators of the wastewater is BOD5, which represents the biochemical oxygen demand in 5 days. That is the amount of oxygen needed if all the hydrocarbons in the wastewater could be oxidized into carbon dioxide and water. Comparing to the industrial or municipal wastewater, the degradation of oil spill in Gulf of Mexico needs much more oxygen. Normally, the length of the chain of hydrocarbon determines the difficulty of its breakdown. Also, the benzene ring of the aromatic hydrocarbon is hard to deal with. In the slideshow, the author first introduced Alcanivorax borkumensis, a ubiquitous marine petroleum oil-degrading bacterium with an unusual physiology specialized for alkane metabolism. If you wanted to know more about the strain and the mechanisms, you can read the paperProteomic Insights into Metabolic Adaptations in Alcanivorax borkumensis Induced by Alkane Utilization. Then, the author talked about the Cycloclasticus, that could degrade the aromatic hydrocarbons by tapping them for energy. It is good to know more than 23 strains of Cycloclasticus native to the Gulf of Mexico have the ability. Scientists are trying to decode Cycloclasticus pugettii, a strain found in the waters of the Puget Sound and being dredged for here, in the hopes of improving its toxic avenger abilities. Early last year, a researcher from UK found that i aerobic conditions, benzene and toluene did not appear to affect community structure, but naphthalene stimulated the growth ofCycloclasticus spirillensus, a bacterium known to break down oil residues. At the end of this post, I would express my respect to Miyoshi, who reported the growth of a mould culture on n-alkanes, and discovered the metabolism of hydrocarbon by microorganisms.

Environmental Technology in the Oil Industry

Today, I am going to discuss a big issue in this not very long post (I prefer to simple and concise style, actually). At first, please allow me introducing a book with the same name as this post, Environmental Technology in the Oil Industry by Stefan T. Orszulik. Click the hyperlink, you can be redirected to this book on google books. You can read part of this book for free. OK, let’s come back to this topic. As we know, the oil industry usually was divided into three parts as upstream (exploration and production), midstream (pipeline and transportation), and downstream (refinery). Each part of the industry has at least one common thing, which is environmental technology. Ten years ago, I earned the first degree of mine, B.S. in Environmental Engineering. The four years’ study made me always have an environmental mind. But, the problem at that time I faced was that I did not know much of any other industry despite of the environmental knowledge. For example, I have learned how to do physiochemical or biochemical wastewater treatment, but totally I had no idea where the wastewater come from. If I knew, maybe we can save some money and energy, even treat the wastewater better. People always complain the oil industry is dirty, politically or physically. Yes, maybe. But we cannot ignore the importance of oil to human being. Thus I chose petroleum engineering as my second degree when I entered the graduate school. I hope through my efforts, the upstream oil industry could less damage the environment. Microbial enhanced oil recovery was my first choice. In addition, it was close to my undergraduate study. Maybe I forgot to tell you the function of microorganisms in oil industry in previous posts. In upstream oil industry, the microorganisms could help geologists to find out where the oil locates (exploration) and increase the production of oil with MEOR. The more importance of microorganisms in oil industry is doing with the wastewater. A book named Petroleum Microbiology by Ronald M. Atlas (1984) offers a comprehensive review on this. The tough (I am not sure it is or not) environmental law requires less damage to the environment. That is to say, petroleum engineers and other engineers need take great efforts to reach this goal. Early today I received a message about the system that could cap deepwater wells in the Gulf of Mexico in a hurry developed by a new not-for-profit firm Marine Well Containment Company, funded $ 1 billion by four oil giants, ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Shell. The Deepwater Horizon explosion caused an ecological disaster in Gulf of Mexico, but also improved the technology. That is the charm of engineering, right?

ExxonMobil’s Perspectives

Occasionally I found a blog named Perspectives by Ken Cohen, who is vice president of public and government affairs for Exxon Mobil Corporation. It is the official blog of ExxonMobil Corporation’s. Within the blog, Ken shared in his company and his own viewpoints on ExxonMobil and energy issues. As he said, Perspectives is the  “energy issues and policy blog” of ExxonMobil’s, through which the dialogue on the energy challenges we all face should be encouraged. He talks about ideas and actions from industry, governments, researchers and many others that affect the world of energy. All his posts have been categorized into Tax Policy, Safety, Energy Outlook, Algae Biofuels, Corporate Citizenship & Sustainability, Energy Technology, Reducing Emissions, and Miscellaneous. From the names of those categorizes’, it is very easy to tell the issues he talks. After I read a couple of posts, I cannot help recommending this blog here, because they are very interesting, and instructive.