Microbial detection of hydrocarbon seeps offshore Nova Scotia

Offshore petroleum exploration requires a multitude of techniques to identify a petroleum system in an offshore area. Novel microbiology technologies which focus on the distribution of marine microbes (microbial biogeography) have been proposed as complementary tools to conventional techniques for oil and gas exploration. Hydrocarbon seepage from subsurface petroleum reservoirs is hypothesized to explain the transport of thermophilic bacterial endospores, i.e. “thermospores”, to cold seabed sediments. A microbial biogeography informed approach to identifying and quantifying petroleum reservoir derived thermospores in marine sediments could offer a strategy to locate reservoirs and improve the success of offshore oil and gas exploration. A data mining-based evaluation of published microbial community assessments of petroleum reservoirs will be used to determine the presence and abundance of thermophilic, endospore-forming bacteria. Prominent thermospores will be compared with those identified in heated incubations of marine sediments from hydrocarbon explorative areas. Analysis of genetic material will be used to evaluate the adaptations of thermophilic endospore-forming bacteria, in sediments overlying known petroleum reservoirs, that would permit growth in a petroleum reservoir, and survival during transport from the hot deep reservoir to cold surface sediments.

Faculty Supervisor:

Casey Hubert


Daniel Gittins


Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia




Mining and quarrying


University of Calgary



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