A Jurassic oil field in Saudi Arabia is characterized by black oil in the crest, with heavy oil underneath and all underlain by a tar mat at the oil-water contact (OWC). The viscosities in the black oil section of the column are similar throughout the field and are quite manageable from a production standpoint. In contrast, the mobile heavy oil section of the column contains a large, continuous increase in asphaltene content with increasing depth extending to the tar mat. Both the excessive viscosity of the heavy oil and the existence of the tar mat represent major, distinct challenges in oil production. A simple new formalism, the Flory-Huggins-Zuo (FHZ) Equation of State (EoS) incorporating the Yen-Mullins model of asphaltene nanoscience, is shown to account for the asphaltene content variation in the mobile heavy oil section. Detailed analysis of the tar mat shows significant nonmonotonic content of asphaltenes with depth, differing from that of the heavy oil. While the general concept of asphaltene gravitational accumulation to form the tar mat does apply, other complexities preclude simple monotonic behavior. Indeed, within small vertical distances (5 ft) the asphaltene content can decrease by 20% absolute with depth. These complexities likely involve a phase transition when the asphaltene concentration exceeds 35%. Traditional thermodynamic models of heavy oils and asphaltene gradients are known to fail dramatically. Many have ascribed this failure to some sort of chemical variation of asphaltenes with depth; the idea being that if the models fail it must be due to the asphaltenes. Our new simple formalism shows that thermodynamic modeling of heavy oil and asphaltene gradients can be successful. Our simple model demands that the asphaltenes are the same, top to bottom. The analysis of the sulfur chemistry of these asphaltenes by X-ray spectroscopy at the synchrotron at the Argonne National Laboratory shows that there is almost no variation of the sulfur through the hydrocarbon column. Sulfur is one of the most sensitive elements in asphaltenes to demark variation. Likewise, saturates, araomatics, resins and asphaltenes (SARA); measurements also support the application of this new asphaltene formalism. Consequently, the asphaltenes are very similar, and our new FHZ EoS with the Yen-Mullins formalism properly accounts for heavy oil and asphaltene gradients.

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