Flow Assurance: The Asphaltene Problem

Dr David Harbottle & Prof. Dongsheng Wen
Asphaltenes are the heavy component of crude oil. The polyaromatic core and heteroatoms of asphaltenes promotes their surface activity, with asphaltenes strongly partitioning at the solid-liquid interface. The adsorption and/or deposition of asphaltenes at interfaces create many flow assurance challenges including pipeline blocking and poor water-crude oil separation. Chemical dispersants to minimize the aggregation potential of asphaltenes and reduce their capacity to adsorb/deposit at an interface are frequently added. While these dispersants provide a performance advantage, they are often incapable of completely preventing asphaltene adsorption. The current study will focus on designing smarter chemicals to target the surface active fraction of asphaltenes, thus eliminating a major flow assurance problem.