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Presenter: Michael Wilkins, The Ohio State University
Date: 2/26/2018
Time: 3:10 pm
Location: Engineering 1045
Contact Email:

Topic: Life in the Deep Biosphere: Persistent Microbial Communities in Hydraulically Fractured Shales
Abstract: The role and impact of microbial activity during energy extraction from hydraulically fractured deep shale environments is poorly understood. However, in other hydrocarbon reservoirs, microorganisms can catalyze a range of deleterious processes including souring, microbially induced corrosion of infrastructure, and clogging of pores and fractures. Therefore, determining microbial signatures and impacts in black shales is important for optimizing the efficiency of gas and oil recovery. We have sampled input waters, flowback fluids, and produced waters from a series of hydraulically fractured wells across the Marcellus and Utica shales in Ohio and Pennsylvania. While geochemical data has revealed a relatively harsh environment rich is dissolved solids and metals, microbial populations have been detected at all time points, suggesting that biocides added to input fluids are not fully effective. Using assembly-based metagenomic analyses of recovered DNA, we have reconstructed microbial genomes and identified a range of potentially active metabolisms in fluids, including fermentation of carbon substrates and methane generation. In addition, we have observed significant viral signatures across all time points, indicating that bottom-up control on the microbial community by phage may be an important process in shaping community structure. Coupled to these molecular microbiological analyses, laboratory enrichments have enabled the isolation of key microbial species including members of the Halanaerobium that can account for over 95% of the community at some time points. Leveraging high-pressure reactors, we have been able to recreate in situ pressures and temperatures in the laboratory to study microbial growth dynamics for these species. Ongoing laboratory work is investigating the potential substrates for microbial fermentation in the shale formations, including carbon-based components of input fracking fluids.

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