Understanding Asphaltene Aggregation and Deposition: A Necessity for the Future of Oil Research

Monday, November 8, 2010: 10:40 AM
Deer Valley I (Marriott Downtown)
Michael P. Hoepfner, Tabish Maqbool, Nasim Haji Akbari Balou and H. Scott Fogler, Chemical Engineering, The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Heavy oil is an extensive but challenging source of energy. Many difficulties currently exist with traditional crude oil reserves and working with heavy oils only complicates the extraction, transportation and refining processes. This presentation will highlight why fundamental chemical engineering research on petroleum is tantamount to the efficient handling of heavy crude oils. Central to this area is the study of asphaltenes due to their large fraction in heavy oils and their strong tendency to aggregate and deposit with changes in temperature, pressure or composition. Our research group has recently shown that asphaltene aggregation occurs under conditions previously identified as stable, further complicating the understanding of an already bewildering fraction of oil [1]. We have also shown that in addition to aggregation occurring at low degrees of destabilization, asphaltene deposition also occurs under such conditions [2]. These recent findings question the validity of both previous experimental studies and many of the thermodynamic models currently used to predict asphaltene stability. Fundamental research on asphaltenes can reveal the true mechanism(s) for asphaltene stability that can be directly applied to the recovery, transportation and processing of heavy crude oil. The industrial implications of asphaltene stability will also be discussed.

[1] T. Maqbool, A.T. Balgoa, and H.S. Fogler, “Revisiting Asphaltene Precipitation from Crude Oils: A Case of Neglected Kinetic Effects,” Energy & Fuels, vol. 23, Jul. 2009, pp. 3681-3686.

[2] M. Hoepfner, T. Maqbool, and H.S. Fogler, “Effects of Precipitant Concentration on Asphaltene Deposition,” AIChE National Meeting, Nashville, TN, 2009.

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