Evaluating the potential of natural surfactants in the petroleum industry: The case of hydrophobins

Marijana Blesic, Valentina DIchiarante, Roberto Milani, Markus Linder, Pierangelo Metrangolo

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    23 Citations (Scopus)


    Enhancing oil recovery from currently available reservoirs is a major issue for petroleum companies. Among the possible strategies towards this, chemical flooding through injection of surfactants into the wells seems to be particularly promising, thanks to their ability to reduce oil/water interfacial tension that promotes oil mobilization. Environmental concerns about the use of synthetic surfactants led to a growing interest in their replacement with surfactants of biological origin, such as lipopeptides and glycolipids produced by several microorganisms. Hydrophobins are small amphiphilic proteins produced by filamentous fungi with high surface activity and good emulsification properties, and may represent a novel sustainable tool for this purpose. We report here a thorough study of their stability and emulsifying performance towards a model hydrocarbon mixture, in conditions that mimic those of real oil reservoirs (high salinity and high temperature). Due to the moderate interfacial tension reduction induced in such conditions, the application of hydrophobins in enhanced oil recovery techniques does not appear feasible at the moment, at least in absence of co-surfactants. On the other hand, the obtained results showed the potential of hydrophobins in promoting the formation of a gel-like emulsion 'barrier' at the oil/water interface.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)305-314
    Number of pages10
    JournalPure and Applied Chemistry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Feb 2018
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • biosurfactant
    • emulsion
    • enhanced oil recovery (EOR)
    • hydrophobin
    • ICGC-6


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