Science: Oil Bugs

A modern industry can never be sure what sciences it will need. In a new book, Petroleum Microbiology (Elsevier Press; $9.50), Professor Ernest Beerstecher Jr. of the University of Texas tells how the hard-muscled oil industry is both helped and bedeviled by lowly bacteria. To begin with, the oil itself was originally formed by bacteria out of organic remains sinking to the bottom of shallow seas. Bacteria still live in oil sands deep underground; many kinds of petroleum and oilfield brine are alive with them. One species lives only on the tops of salt domes, the telltale indicators of oil deposits,...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!