Significant effort has been dedicated to understand the variables affecting asphaltene precipitation. Based on years of research, it is well known how variables such as temperature and pressure can affect the deposition of asphaltenes. However, much less is understood about the effect that asphaltene characteristics have on the tendency towards precipitation of different crude oils. We characterize extensively a series of n-pentane extracted asphaltenes and construct novel correlations with the stability of their corresponding crude oils.
11 different bitumen and crude oil samples are characterized first with API gravity and viscosity measurements, and thermogravimetric and differential scanning calorimetric analyses (TGA/DSC). The weight percentage of the asphaltenes in bulk samples are determined through n-pentane precipitation. The molecular structure of the asphaltenes is investigated with Fourier Transform InfraRed (FTIR) spectroscopy. Asphaltene stability is measured by ΔPS and by determining the Asphaltene Solubility Profile. The impact of hydrogen deficiency, heteroatom content and solubility distributions on other properties such as viscosity and aggregation behavior is also explored.
It has been observed that there is weak relationship between the asphaltene content and API gravity or viscosity of the bulk samples. The weight percent of the light, intermediate, heavy, solid, and ash fractions of the asphaltenes, defined with TGA/DSC experiments, indicate that the carbon rich solid component of the bulk samples that can decompose over 550 °C, correlate with the weight percent of the asphaltenes in bulk oil. The ash content of the bulk oil, which is mainly composed of heavy metals like sulfur, nickel, and vanadium, is correlated to the amount of asphaltenes precipitated out of the oil. Moreover, FTIR and solubility profile analyses reveals that the polarity of the asphaltene molecules is affected not only by its molecular composition and structure but also by its interactions with other crude oil components.
This study discusses the impact of the physical and chemical properties of crude oils and their asphaltenes on asphaltene precipitation. Several asphaltene deposition mechanisms are developed and validated for 11 different crude oil and bitumen samples with different asphaltene contents, thereby providing important and fundamental insight into asphaltene related problems.