Sulphate reducing bacteria in carbon dioxide
Overall the CCSCFE CDT has provided me with a great range of valuable experience to help me complete my doctorate and to bring with me to my future work.
My research project began in 2014 in the CCSCFE CDT at the University of Nottingham. I am currently in my third year of training and am due to finish in 2018. My projected is titled ‘Sulphate reducing bacteria in carbon dioxide’. This is a joint project between the University of Nottingham, the British Geological Survey and the industrial sponsor Progressive Energy Ltd (SME). My academic supervisor at the University of Nottingham is Dr David Large who is the head of the department of chemical and environmental engineering. My supervisor at the British Geological Survey is Dr Simon Gregory who is the geomicrobiologist and geomicrobiology laboratory manager. Industrial supervision was from Dr David Hanstock who is the commercial director at Progressive Energy.
This project is looking at the effect of oxygen impurities within stored carbon dioxide (CO2) on native microbial communities, specifically sulphate reducing bacteria. This is of importance to the CCS industry as sulphate reducing bacteria produce hydrogen sulphide which can cause operational issues such as injection well blockages, injection well corrosion, oil souring and oil degradation. These can all cause delays or even the abandonment of operations. The presence of oxygen has been linked to increases in microbial activity. The oxygen impurity specifications for geological storage focus on the transport of the gas and do not take into consideration the effect on storage site microbiology. The aim of the project is to inform appropriate specification on oxygen concentrations, within CO2 storage, which will minimise negative microbial impacts.
Coming from a background in microbiology, there was a steep ‘learning curve’ when it came to understanding the process of CCS including the sources of gas and the chemical reactions involved. Being part of the CDT helped in this regard as one mandatory first year module was titled ‘Power Generation and Carbon Capture and Storage’. This provided a good introduction to the subject which eased me from a base knowledge on the subject to a point where I could be confident with the subject. A combination of this module and being part of a training centre created an environment where I could discuss part of the subject with my colleagues and seek help when needed from people in my year or people who had completed the module in previous years.
The CDT provided the great opportunity to get presentation experience by hosting an annual Winter School with people from the Centre and members of the UK CCS Research Centre (UKCCSRC). Here I have presented a poster in my first year and did an oral presentation in my second year. Communicating your project work can be a very difficult thing to do but it is an invaluable skill in the research community. In addition to the presentation, there is also a group task where you have to work on a CCS-related topic and present on it at the end of the week. Teamwork is a valuable skill in any work environment and can easily be overlooked when you are focused on your own work. The Winter School provide valuable, non-specific experience which could be missed out on in a traditional doctorate. The Centre also provided me with the opportunity to attend and present at my first international conference with their International Visit programme.
In the Centre there are many different projects and people from many different backgrounds. This variety provides a great wealth and variety of knowledge so there is always people there to provide an alternative perspective or specialised help you need. I am sure that that the experience and assistance I have received will continue as I progress further in my project.