Asphaltenes are the heaviest and most polarizable components of crude oil and constitute most of the asphalt that we use to surface roadways.
Asphaltenes are defined as a solubility class of crude oil which are insoluble in lower molecular weight alkanes while being soluble in aromatic solvents. These molecules directly affect oil production by depositing in reservoirs, wellbores, and production facilities and can also ruin costly refinery catalysts. This deposition can either partially or totally clog wellbores, reducing the amount of oil production, halting well productivity and leading to devastating economic losses during remediation operations. Hence, it is necessary to study the mechanism and parameters affecting the deposition process. At the COIFPM, efforts are under way to study the mechanism of asphaltene deposition using various precipitants in a flow-loop system by varying parameters such as flow rate and precipitant concentration. This will help identify ways for limiting asphaltene deposition in oilfields and production facilities. Additionally, asphaltene research at the COIFPM is exploring new ways to use asphaltenes to synthesize valuable industrial materials as well as ways to remediate the environmental impacts of asphaltene deposition after oil spills.