Calcium naphthenate deposition is among the most challenging obstacles to high production regularity for oilfields where acidic crude oils are produced. Until now it has generally been acknowledged that the deposit is made up of calcium soaps of the naphthenic acids in the crude oil, though with a slight overrepresentation of the lighter acids. In this paper, however, we demonstrate that this is not the case. Through a combination of several analytical techniques – the most important being Potentiometric Titration, LC/MS, NMR, and VPO – the ARN acid has been identified as the dominating constituent of these deposits. The ARN acid is a family of 4-protic carboxylic acids containing 4 - 8 unsaturated sites (rings) in the hydrocarbon skeleton with mole weights in the range 1227 – 1235 g/mol. The mole weight of the homologous ARN acids series are 1227, 1229, 1231, 1233, 1235 (basic structures) + n×14 (n = number of additional CH2-groups in hydrocarbon skeleton). The ARN acid with mole weight 1231 has C80H142O8 as empirical formula.
The present paper describes the different analytical methods leading to the ARN acid discovery. Furthermore it discusses possible ARN structures and methods for quantitative ARN detection in crude oils. The ARN acid has proved to be the main component in naphthenate deposit from oilfields offshore Norway, Great Britain, China and West Africa. The implications of the discovery to current calcium naphthenate treating strategies will be briefly discussed.