Aromatic-based solvents, including benzene, toluene, xylene (BTX) and their derivatives have been successfully applied for asphaltene removal from downhole and surface facilities. These solvents are considered non-environmentally friendly due to their associated health and safety concerns including high toxicity, low biodegradability and low flash point. Currently, more attention has been given in the oil industry to develop environmentally friendly asphaltene solvents.
This paper examines several environmentally friendly solvents derived from natural precursors to dissolve asphaltene, wax and combined asphaltene/paraffin organic deposit. A group of plant-derived and terpene-based asphaltene solvents with flash points ranging from 50.5 to 136 °C was examined in this study. Extracted asphaltene from a crude oil and wax obtained from distillation were used to assess solvency power of these solvents. Solubility of organic deposits containing more 42 wt% asphaltene with associated paraffin was evaluated in these solvents. The performance of these solvents was examined as a function of soaking time and temperature. These environmentally friendly solvents showed comparable solvency power to toluene. The lowest flash point solvent exhibited the highest solvency power for asphaltene while the opposite relation was observed for the wax sample. The lowest flash point (50.5 °C) solvent was able to dissolve 91 wt% of the asphaltene sample after soaking for 2 hours at ambient temperature compared with the highest flash point solvent (136 °C), which dissolved only 7.4 wt% at the same conditions. For wax, the solvent with the second highest flash point (132 °C) was able to dissolve 97 wt% of the wax while the solvent with a flash point of 50.5 °C was able to dissolve 85.5 wt% at ambient temperature and after 2 hours. Some of the examined environmentally friendly solvents showed very high dissolution power to organic deposits composed of asphaltene and paraffin where a solubility of 96 wt% was obtained at 80 °C and after a soaking time of 6 hours. The paper will discuss these results in detail.