Retiring researchers Julia Foght
and Gerrit Voordouw
have both had a strong influence on how the science of genomics is being used by the oil industry.
The relationship between genomics and hydrocarbons was not initially viewed as being important by the industry, but petroleum microbiology now touches a surprising number of areas. Microbes lead to the souring of gas wells, they can cause corrosion problems, contribute to the remediation of tailings ponds, and help make offshore oil exploration more precise. Using genomics tools to understand how that happens has been a career for Foght and Voordouw who came from different backgrounds and took different paths to end up working on ground breaking research here in Alberta.
Both of them have been part of two Genome Alberta projects, Managing microbial corrosion in Canadian offshore & onshore oil production operations
and Metagenomics for greener production and extraction of hydrocarbon energy
. Gerrit is retiring from the University of Calgary where a major focus of his research was on using microbiology to control corrosion and improve hydrocarbon production. Julia's work at the University of Alberta was built around studying hydrocarbon-degrading communities. The research has ventured as far afield as the Antarctic where Julia collected samples to see where hydrocarbon degrading microbes could be found, and as close to home as Medicine Hat where Gerrit collected oilfield samples over several years.
Retiring can be a slow process so they are both keeping their hands in the research community but their full-time presence will be missed. Freelance broadcaster Caroline Wagner talked to the two researchers about their contributions to the marriage of genomics and the oil industry.