Main content area

Extracting Natural Biosurfactants from Humus Deposits for Subsurface Engineering Applications

Wan, Jiamin, Tokunaga, Tetsu K., Dong, Wenming, Kim, Yongman
Energy & Fuels 2017 v.31 no.11 pp. 11902-11910
additives, biosurfactants, elemental composition, energy, energy recovery, engineering, foaming, fuels, humus, moieties, surface tension, viscosity
Environmentally benign, economical, and effective surfactants and additives are needed in engineering subsurface energy recovery processes. Biosurfactants have some advantages over chemically synthesized surfactants, but the high costs of microbial-biosynthesis limit their applications in subsurface engineering. Here we propose to use naturally occurring biosurfactants contained within Earth’s readily available and inexpensive humus deposits for subsurface engineering applications. We collected humus samples of different types from four different regions, and developed a simple method for extracting natural biosurfactant (NBS) using only four common chemicals. The average NBS extraction yields are 16 ± 3% of the raw humus. No significant differences in elemental composition and functional group chemistry were found among the NBS extracted from humus of different origins, suggesting that any humus deposit can be used for NBS extraction. Measurements of interfacial tensions between air–water and supercritical (sc) CO₂–water interfaces indicate that the NBS is a highly effective surfactant. NBS has good foaming ability. Preliminary tests with only 0.5 mass % NBS in the aqueous phase (no other additives) yielded scCO₂-in-water foams of 83% foam quality. The apparent viscosity of 13 cP measured at a shear rate of 2320 s–¹ indicates that much higher viscosities are achievable at lower shear rates. These results suggest that NBS merits further research and development for potential applications in subsurface energy production.