Upgrading and recovering of unconventional crude oils, like heavy oil and bitumen, are gaining high popularity due to the fact that the conventional oil supply is drastically depleting. However, the high viscosity and specific gravity of heavy oil inhibit its consistent flow in porous media and the piping system, resulting in huge increase in operational costs as well as adverse impact on production rates. This problem, with the need to increase production rates, mandates research aiming at removing polar heavy hydrocarbons (like asphaltenes) from heavy oil and bitumen matrices. One possible way of removing asphaltenes from these systems is adsorption onto nanoparticle adsorbents.
Nanoparticles have exceptional properties such as high surface area to volume ratio and active surface functionality. These features promote nanoparticles to be suitable as adsorbents and catalysts for enhancing heavy oil quality and recovery. Silicate-based nanoparticles is an environmentally friendly, naturally occurring and economically feasible nanomaterials that is tested for the first time for heavy oil upgrading. This work contributes to enhance the quality of heavy oil. Specifically, it investigates the removal of polar heavy hydrocarbons, particularly asphaltenes, by adsorbing onto nano-iron silicate. Hence, deasphalting heavy oil contributes to improve the quality of the oil. Therefore, a great reduction in environmental footprint should be expected, as well as an increase in processes performance and efficiency. This will in turn reduce the capital and operational costs.
In this study, different crystalline domain sizes of nano-iron silicate were synthesised and tested for the adsorptive removal of n-C5 Athabasca visbroken asphaltenes. Adsorption kinetics and isotherms were performed to understand the adsorption mechanisms. Additionally, we evaluated the catalytic effect of nano-iron silicate materials towards visbroken asphaltene thermal cracking. Results will be elaborated and discussed.
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