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Microbial identification and trending with ATP Test Kits

LifeCheck ATP Test Kits are a field-ready test used to detect the overall population of microbes present. It does this by measuring adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the metabolic activity of a molecule. This molecule is related to energy production and is present in all living cells. By measuring the ATP content of a sample, you can assess the total life within that sample. The ATP value is then converted to a microbial equivalent (ME) or microbes per fluid volume. ME is a universal unit comparable to other microbial test results including:

  • serial dilution log growth
  • colony forming units
  • microscopy counts

All-inclusive results are available in minutes, providing enhanced monitoring capabilities for superior control of microbes in your process.

There are two types of LifeCheck ATP Test Kits available:

  1. Planktonic Kit: Used for liquid samples
  2. Sessile Kit: Used for solid samples

Both kits contain all the consumable materials required to run the specified number of tests.

LifeCheck ATP Test Kit Instruction Guide

Our Instruction Guide is busting with information on how to complete liquid, solid and surface sample testing. Easy to use decision trees are available to guide you through understanding which test you need to complete. There are also step by step instructions complete with photo demonstrations.

LifeCheck ATP Training Videos

For further training and educational resources, OSP offers step by step training videos for LifeCheck ATP Testing.

ATP Testing Sample Handling Tips

LifeCheck ATP Planktonic Kit
  1. When collecting the raw sample use a clean container and triple rinse
  2. Complete the field portion of the kit at the sample point to obtain the most accurate ATP/microbial count
LifeCheck ATP Sessile Kit: Coupons
    1. Handle coupons by the edges, it is important to not disturb the surface of the coupon
    2. Place coupon directly into the Reagent X tube with the extraction fluid or into the field container and add the Reagent X
    3. For coupons with high amounts of hydrocarbon present use one of the following options:
      • Hang or slightly shake coupons to allow the hydrocarbon to drip off
      • Lightly run the coupon between thumb and forefinger (with gloves on) (Caution: if sand or solids present this may scratch coupon surface)
      • Blotting the surface of the coupon with clean paper towel may be an option (Caution: there can be free ATP on the paper towel)
      • Set a standard for handling all coupons; this will improve trend data
    4. For coupons with scale, if scale analysis is required remove scale first:
      • Sterilize a sharp instrument (wipe with an alcohol swab) and if possible only disturb one side of the coupon
    5. Notes and pictures of coupons, as they are removed from the system, can help to understand the data generated from the testing. Keep in mind that there are no set rules, but it is important to treat all samples the same.
LifeCheck ATP Sessile Kit: Solids
      1. Depending on the sample you may be able to pick up a small amount with a clean, gloved hand and place directly into the tube
      2. If using a tool or spatula sterilize with an alcohol swab to prevent contamination
      3. When possible get an accurate mass or volume


LifeCheck ATP Test Kits were designed to handle nasty, commingled waters. The Kits offer an easy, fast and accurate microbial enumeration method valuable in routine monitoring and microbial management programs.

Other ATP technologies have been designed with ‘clean’ water in mind. Due to the presence of hydrocarbons and interferences within oil and gas fluids, these ATP technologies provide variable results. LifeCheck ATP takes into consideration interferences present, providing a wash/rinse step along with enzyme verifications to ensure the highest degree of accuracy.

Are you looking for answers to these Frequently Asked Questions?

Why ATP testing?
ATP monitoring offers a powerful combination of speed, versatility, portability, and accuracy for microbial testing. This testing measures the total active/living microbial load (count) in the sample. It is an ideal form of testing for creating a baseline, and for building trend data to ensure that an asset is being well maintained. For example, ATP testing is used to evaluate the effectiveness of the kill achieved through microbial control programs. Biocides used in oil and gas are non-specific – they don’t preferentially kill one type of microbe over another. Reading the total microbial load before and after a treatment program mitigates against unexpected outcomes.

ATP takes approximately 5-10 minutes to complete and can be conducted on-the-go (portable) or in a lab. For more information, watch our training videos or see our LifeCheck ATP Handbook.

How do LifeCheck ATP Test Kits work with produced waters?
The entire test takes 5-10 minutes, briefly the procedure involves:
    Drawing the sample into the supplied syringe and passing it through a filter to remove any debris and trap the cells on the filter
  1. A rinsing step to remove contaminants
  2. Passing the Reagent X through the filter to break open the cells, releasing the ATP for analysis
    • The solution collected after passing Reagent X through the filter contains the ATP
  3. Mixing the resulting liquid with Reagent Z that contains an enzyme that uses this ATP to emit light
  4. Measure the amount of light (RLU’s) using the LifeCheck PhotonMaster
  5. An easy to use calculator tool then converts the RLU reading to a measure of microbial load (Microbial Equivalents)
  6. For more information, watch our training video or read our ATP Instruction Guide

Can LifeCheck ATP Test Kits work with solid samples?
Yes, for solids samples we have the sessile kit, specifically designed for testing microbial loads on solid and surface (swab) samples. Sessile testing refers to testing for surface-attached microbes, such as those that cause corrosion-related failures of assets.
What does the result from the LifeCheck ATP test tell us?
The result gives us the amount of total living cells, or how much ‘life’ is in your sample. It is essentially the result of combining all other traditional growth tests into one, with the added benefit of being far more accurate as no culturing step is required. It is an easy and accurate method to assess biocide treatments and efficiency, and for routine microbial monitoring.
Within an ATP test, is the accuracy affected based on the volume pushed?
Increased volume or sample size provides a more accurate average of microbial load per unit. Decreasing sample volume may decrease assay sensitivity, especially in low microbe samples. The rule of thumb though is to be consistent within comparable samples. Aim to sample (filter) 10-60 ml.
Do you freeze or refrigerate enzymes?
When you receive the Reagent Z and Buffer, you have a couple options. If the intent is to use the reagent immediately, you can refrigerate it in which it will remain stable for 3 months. If not, it is recommended that it be kept frozen and it will be stable for 6 months. Once you mix and the enzyme is in liquid form, refrigeration is the preferred method for storage.
What are the ATP Test Kit storage requirements and conditions?
When you receive your test kit, utilize the following guidelines for material storage. Avoid usage of expired test kit components.

  1. Reagent Z and Buffer
    • Recommended Storage: 4 to 25°C / 39 to 77°F
    • Shelf Life: 2 years
  2. Reagent Z Liquid
    • Recommended Storage: 4 to 25°C / 39 to 77°F
    • Shelf Life: *Note Below
  3. All Other Reagents (X,D, Standard, Rinse and Soak)
    • Recommended Storage: 4 to 25°C / 39 to 77°F
    • Shelf Life: 2 years

*Reagent Z is manufactured and shipped in bottles of freeze-dried powder and liquid buffer. The stated shelf life is for the freeze-dried form; store components in the refrigerator. Following rehydration, Reagent Z will be stable for 3 months when refrigerated and 6 months when frozen.

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