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Dr Laura Machuca | Curtin University, Australia


Understanding and Addressing Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC)


Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) refers to corrosion initiated or accelerated by microorganisms. It involves the complex interaction of electrochemical, environmental, operational, and biological factors that often result in substantial increases in corrosion rates to metals. MIC drives a worldwide market for microbial control that is worth billions of dollars annually. Although MIC is a phenomenon that has always occurred in the industry, it is still poorly understood and recognized. The advances in experimental methods and the development of high performance bioinformatic tools have substantially improved our understanding of microbial communities associated with oilfield systems and corrosion. However, careful interpretations are required for the vast amount of data modern sequencing technology can produce.

This lecture will introduce basic principles of biofilm-steel interactions and MIC and a summary of the latest technical and scientific advances in the field, including an overview of current and evolving technologies for MIC assessment and improved methods for assessment of biocide efficiency for MIC control. A few examples of rigorous MIC failure investigations will also be presented which highlight the importance of interdisciplinary research in diagnosing MIC. Nonetheless, translating scientific observations into practical applications and decision making is an ongoing challenge in the industry that urges close collaboration between industry and academic researches.


Dr. Laura Machuca leads research and industry projects on MIC at the Curtin Corrosion Centre (Curtin University). She is an environmental microbiologist and a corrosion specialist whose research and teaching activities focus on the interaction of microbes with metals and the role of microbes in deterioration processes particularly, those revelant to the oil & gas and marine industries.

Laura completed a PhD in 2013 on MIC of corrosion resistance alloys in seawater, a joint project between Curtin, CSIRO and Chevron. Since then, she has developed research collaboration with industry groups including Woodside Energy Ltd, Inpex and Chevron, and has established a MIC research team including 6 PhD students working on industry corrosion problems and fundamental research.

Furthermore, her linkages with world leaders in corrosion and microbial ecology provide a focal point for collaborations that are driving the advancement of MIC research capabilities in Australia. In particular, Dr. Machuca’s team are devoted to applying and adapting the latest molecular methods for the diagnosis and field monitoring of MIC.

She has recently expanded her research to study the microorganisms inhabiting the deep sea and their interaction with iron-hulled structures and with submerged infrastructure under cathodic protection.

Dr. Machuca is currently a chief investigator in a multi-disciplinary collaborative project funded through the Australian Research Council. She has received a PhD Chancellor’s commendation, Best Review Paper Award, Best Research Paper Award, several international travel awards and was nominated for the Woodside Early Career Scientist of the year award in 2016. Laura has received commendation from industry for her research which has resulted in cost savings estimated at >$20M and implementation of new practices and procedures for preservation of pressure equipment and piping systems.