Summary

Petroleum fluids from shale light‐oil and gas/condensate reservoirs generally have a high content of normal paraffins. Paraffin‐wax deposition is among the challenges in shale gas and oil production and in offshore flow assurance. Low‐dosage chemical additives can be effective in paraffin‐wax mitigation because of their high efficiency and economics. These additives are divided into broad categories of crystal modifiers and dispersants with vastly different molecular structures and mechanisms in wax‐crystal‐particle stabilization and wetting. This investigation focuses on the understanding of the differences in the aggregate size and morphology of chemical additives, and it centers on (1) wax‐particle sedimentation from diluted petroleum fluids in vial tests, (2) wax‐crystal‐particle‐size distributions and morphology by dynamic light scattering (DLS) and polarized‐light microscopy, and (3) the wetting state from the effect of water. In two of the three petroleum‐fluid samples used in this work, there is no visible precipitation at the bottom of the vials at temperatures below the wax‐appearance temperature (WAT). The microscopic image of fluids along the length of the tube shows that the wax‐particle size and intensity increase from top to bottom. To observe precipitation, we dilute the crude with a hydrocarbon such as n-heptane. The sedimentation of wax is then observed. The petroleum fluids used in this work have very low asphaltene content, and there is no complication from asphaltene precipitation. Our study shows that a small amount of crystal modifier and dispersant can reduce crystal‐particle size to the submicron scale, and change the crystal morphology. We investigate the differences in the mechanisms of dispersants and crystal modifiers in bulk. Water, which is often coproduced with petroleum fluids, can increase the effectiveness of dispersants significantly by altering the wetting state of the wax‐particle surface. Such enhancement is not found in crystal modifiers. Both additives affect the rheology of petroleum fluids.

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