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Gazprom Neft starts deploying its own proprietary biotechnologies in oil production

Gazprom Neft’s Science and Technology Centre has developed a new strain of bacteria for producing versatile xanthan gum — a valuable raw material essential to the oil production, food and cosmetic industries. This organism is capable of producing two to four times more xanthan gum that previously known bacteria — giving rise to the possibility that industrial production of xanthan gum might be possible in Russia for the first time. According to company specialists, the product obtained using this new strain will be 10% cheaper than imported alternatives.

laboratory staff doing research

Xanthan gum is a safe, naturally-occurring compound, much in demand across many industries. It is a vital component in drilling fluids used in oil production. Xanthan gum is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and food products. Xanthan gum for industrial use is not yet produced in Russia, and is completely dependent on supplies from abroad.

Gazprom Neft launched its domestic xanthan-gum production project in 2019 — the first step towards import-substitution here being the development of a new strain of xanthan-producing bacteria, with staff at Gazprom Neft’s Science and Technology Centre, together with Russian biotechnologists, inter-breeding the most highly productive currently known strains. Under standard conditions this new bacteria — Xanthomonas fuscans GBigcsan-615 — produces a xanthan yield of 18.2 g/l: when cultivated on enriched media the xanthan yield is between 24.2 and 29.5 g/l — a two to four times greater than the yield of any other bacteria known to date.

This development has been recognised by the scientific community, with the strain being included in the Russian National Collection of Industrial Microorganisms (VKPM) and the Gazprom Neft Science and Technology Centre securing patents for its invention. The next stage on this project will involve pilot production of Russian-produced xanthan gum, with the first drilling fluids produced using it expected to undergo testing by Gazprom Neft in autumn 2021.

“Creating a highly productive xanthan-gum-producing strain of bacteria is an example of our company finding a successful solution to a completely unprecedented technological challenge. We have brought skills and competencies from academic science together with those from partners in areas far removed from oil and gas to find an import-substitution alternative for critical raw materials much in demand from various industries. Laboratory tests have shown that high-quality drilling fluid — fully compliant with oil-industry standards — can be produced from xanthan produced using this new strain. This is the first strain to be developed in Russia meeting all requirements in producing xanthan for oil production. Its properties indicate that this xanthan is universal, and can also be used in the food production, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.”
Alexey Vashkevich
Alexey Vashkevich Director for Technological Development, Gazprom Neft
Notes for editors

Xanthan gum is a stabiliser, used as a thickener and gelling agent. This naturally occurring chemical compound is a complex polysaccharide, produced through fermentation using Xanthomonas bacteria. Xanthan is used in oil production to control solutions’ viscosity and fluidity. This biopolymer is capable of ensuring a fluid’s stability, even at high temperatures.