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Genetics of Oil Drilling

A few US shale oil producers are using DNA sequencing to identify promising wells, Reuters reports. It adds that it's part of companies' efforts to cut costs and keep pace with global oil producers.

The companies are testing DNA extracted from microorganisms found in rock samples to compare to DNA found in oil samples. Similarities and differences in their genetic profiles are then used to find locations that are more likely to have oil.

Ajay Kshatriya, the chief executive and co-founder of Biota Technology, which has developed this approach, tells Reuters it can save oil producers time and money. "This is a whole new way of measuring these wells and, by extension, sucking out more oil for less," he says.

Experts tell Reuters that this approach could be promising so long as the company collects sufficient numbers of DNA samples along the well. "I don't doubt that with enough information [Biota] could find a signature, a DNA fingerprint, of microbial genomes that can substantially improve the accuracy and speed of a number of diagnostic applications in the oil industry," Preethi Gunaratne from the University of Houston tells Reuters.

Reuters notes that Biota's tool has been applied to some 80 wells in the US.