FACTS SURFACE ABOUT BUGS AND DISAPPEARING OIL RIGS

It is already known that sulphate reducing bacteria (SRB), commonly found in ocean mud, produce sulphuric acid which will easily etch mild steel. SRBs also cause a type of corrosion called "hydrogen embrittlement" which is produced by hydrogen diffusing into a metal surface and upsetting the metal's normal atomic structure. Now, there is growing evidence that the destructive SRBs are no longer confined to the sea mud. Dr Eric Sjoberg and Dr Anthony Bark of of Chelsea College in London have discovered SRBs on the surfaces of experimental plates recovered from a depth of only 20m in the north North Sea. Sjoberg and Bark attached the plates to an oil-rig as part of a Department of Environment sponsored project. Other researchers have reported finding SRBs at higher levels, including the surface of the sea. How these microbes survive near the surface is uncertain. Normally, they will only live in the dark, anaerobic conditions of sea mud. Sjoberg thinks that SRBs so much prefer the iron-rich surfaces of the rigs that they easily adapt to a new environment. Drilling engineers are worried as bacterial corrosion may be responsible for reducing the working life of some equipment. Machinery that was supposed to operate for 20 years has lasted only 10 months. But, provided that they can identify the types of bacteria present on the equipment, drilling companies can devise protective coatings. Before the new information about SRBs came to light, Sjoberg began making a computer analysis of data on the physical, seasonal and geographical conditions in the North Sea which affect the activity of microbes. His results now point to definite links between microbes and corrosion. To date, the analysis includes little information about SRBs. It mainly concerns data about organisms which were known to exist under the conditions studied. During the next few months, the researchers hope to recover further plates from the oil rig under test. (No further information in article.)

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  • Corporate Authors:

    IPC Magazine Limited

    King's Reach Tower, Stamford Street
    London SE1 9LS,   England 
  • Publication Date: 1980-8

Media Info

  • Pagination: p. 591
  • Serial:
    • NEW SCIENTIST
    • Volume: 87
    • Issue Number: 1215
    • Publisher: REED BUSINESS INFORMATION LTD
    • ISSN: 0262-4079

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00322603
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 29 1980 12:00AM