Characterisation of microbial communities of drill cuttings piles from offshore oil and gas installations

Lloyd D. Potts* (Corresponding Author), Luis J. Perez Calderon, Cecile Gubry-Rangin, Ursula Witte, James A. Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
12 Downloads (Pure)


Drill cuttings (DC) are produced during hydrocarbon drilling operations and are composed of subsurface rock coated with hydrocarbons and drilling fluids. Historic disposal of DC at sea has resulted in the formation of large piles on the seabed that may be left in situ following infrastructure decommissioning. This study provides a first insight into the microbial abundance, diversity and community structure of two DC piles from North Sea oil and gas installations. The abundance of both bacteria and archaea was lower in DC than in surrounding natural sediments. Microbial diversity and richness within DC were low but increased with distance from the piles. Microbial community structure was significantly different in DC piles compared to nearby natural sediments. DC bacterial communities were dominated by Halomonas, Dietzia and Dethiobacter. The presence of such organisms suggests a potential function of hydrocarbon degradation ability and may play an active role in DC pile remediation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-177
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
Early online date25 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the Maxwell computer cluster funded by the University of Aberdeen. Dr. Axel Aigle is acknowledged for guidance and assistance in molecular analysis. Hedda Weitz and Heather Richmond are thanked for technical support. This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council [NE/L00982X/1 to UW, JA and EG]. CGR was supported by a University Research Fellowship from the Royal Society [UF150571]. DC samples, environmental analysis and all geochemical datasets were kindly provided by Marathon Oil UK LLC (referred to as Marathon Oil).


  • Decommissioning
  • Drill cuttings
  • Halomonas
  • Hydrocarbons
  • Microbial community


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