German oil and gas company Wintershall is engaged in a research project exploring the use of the fungus Schizophyllum commune in polymer flooding.

The fungus produces abiopolymer, schizophyllan, that researchers say tolerates high temperatures, maintains good mechanical stability and is fully biodegradable.

The technology could be an effective enhanced oil recovery (EOR) tool in certain reservoir conditions, says Klaus Langemann, head of technology at Wintershall.

"Biopolymers tend to have a much higher stability towards challenging reservoir conditions such as high temperature and high salinity," Langemann says.