Using Nutrient vs. Live Microbes

"Are you just using nutrient?"

We receive this question sometimes from prospective clients. They may have been told by another company that nutrients are the same as our carefully selected microbes—after all, if you feed them good "microbe food," they grow, right? And they produce biosurfactants right?

Except that just using nutrient usually does not do a good job. There’s a reason, and there’s a big difference between live microbe use and simply adding nutrient.

So what is nutrient?

Nutrient serves as “food” for indigenous microbes in the formation, which facilitates production of biosurfactants that address desired issues in the system.

What are the problems with only using nutrient?

Using nutrient is a bit of a guessing game.

  1. You hope that the indigenous microbes you want to “feed” are present - if they are, you hope that there are enough to grow a colony size big enough to achieve the desired goals
  2. The nutrient could feed bad bacteria in the formation
  3. The treatment is not tailor-made to target your desired goals

What is different between JGL microbes and nutrient?

JGL microbes are live organisms. Our microbes produce biosurfactants on their own in high quantity. We add nutrient to sustain growth of our already-present microbes.

While the goal of nutrient is to target indigenous microbes, we already know that our product has checked that box before we even treat. JGL introduces billions of microbes in our product and we use the surface facilities as a bioreactor. This gives our microbes a healthy environment where they can reproduce at a rate that maintains a concentration of a million cells per mL at all times throughout your system. All that time they are performing several different processes, such as producing surfactants that do the hard work.

Our process has been perfected over years of experience along with precise lab analysis of your produced fluids from the system to create the right microbe mix to solve various issues. These issues include, but not limited to:

  • Breaking interfacial tension of trapped oil
  • Increasing flow by reducing viscosity of the oil
  • The mobility of our microbes allow them to get in tight capillaries releasing oil that would otherwise be left in the reservoir
  • Removing skin damage from scale and hydrocarbon build up, improving injectivity

Let’s explain it this way. You decided to spruce up the garden this spring, so you drove to Big Box Nursery. You told the clerk, “I want some yellow marigolds.” So she handed you a potful of dirt and some Miracle Grow, and said, “That’ll be $40.” 

Peering closely at the pot, you said, “I don’t see any marigolds.”

“Not yet!” she chirped.


She continued, “This is really great dirt, and the pots sat next to the marigolds all winter. I bet in just a few weeks, if you water it really well, you’ll see what you want. There are probably some seeds down in the dirt. This is GREAT dirt.” We don’t think there are any weed seeds in there, but if there are, you can just pull them up while you are waiting for your marigolds.

It’s like that with nutrient versus live microbes.


The nutrient-fed indigenous microbes do produce some biosurfactants as well—but not likely in enough quantity or in the right mix to actually do what ours do, let alone all the additional beneficial process that improve recovery. We do add nutrient to our microbes so they will flourish all the way along. The difference is that we know what we’re feeding, and we know the results will be what you want.

If your vendor says they’re going to throw some microbe food into the hole, that may indeed target indigenous microbes. However, nutrient will fall short two ways: It will not likely get you the microbes that will improve your recovery and it most likely will not give you enough. JGL’s microbe treatments offer proven, measurable, and cost-effective results.

Contact us here to get in touch.

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Explore our most frequently asked questions.

FAQ Page

Is there a different microbe product for each issue I have?

There are different strains of microbes for different issues. JGL Microbes are able to blend into one treatment, tailor-made to your system.

Why use microbes instead of chemical?

Synthetic chemicals are man-made copies of naturally occurring chemicals in nature and are for the most part toxic and/or environmentally harmful to personnel, plants, animals, aquifers, etc. Microbes are more effective than chemical because of their biological process, they produce natural chemicals and by-products in situ making them much more effective for common oilfield applications.