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Asphaltenes: A Complex and Challenging Flow Assurance Issue To Measure and Quantify Risk

Asphaltenes represent a highly polar component of crude oil, insoluble in n-alkanes and soluble in aromatic solvents. The interactions between asphaltene-water, asphaltene-clay, or asphaltene-asphaltene molecules can cause severe flow assurance issues in an oil field. Such issues could lead to pore-throat blockages within the reservoir and the plugging of production and transportation flowlines.

To overcome these issues, it is necessary to first understand the overall stability and dispersancy state of the asphaltenes within the native crude.

Most techniques currently used are based on light-scattering and transmittance phenomenon. Since crude oils are intrinsically dark colored, these techniques require dilution of the oil sample with solvents or precipitants. The addition of these chemicals alters the nature and thermodynamic equilibrium of the various solubility fractions within the crude oil. Moreover, the performance of asphaltene inhibitor (AI) on low-asphaltene crude oil samples is very difficult to analyze using traditional optical transmission methods.

Researchers from Clariant Oil Services have recently created a more efficient method to evaluate asphaltene stability and inhibitor efficiency using native crude oil samples. This technique can overcome the limitations associated with the optical transmission method. It also presents a more realistic approach to understanding asphaltene stability since it investigates the state of asphaltene within the native crude oil medium rather than the pseudo system of oil precipitant.

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Asphaltenes: A Complex and Challenging Flow Assurance Issue To Measure and Quantify Risk

Jonathan Wylde, Heriot-Watt University and Clariant Oil Services, and Abhishek Punase, Clariant Oil Services

01 May 2020

Volume: 72 | Issue: 5

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