A huge amount of research is being carried out around the world in the energy sector, and while there is a significant emphasis on renewable energies, there is also a considerable effort being made on the improvement in production methods and usage of conventional hydrocarbon feed stocks.
For example, the up-stream and down-stream processing of crude oils can be severely affected by the composition of the heavy fractions. Heavy oils, vacuum residua and bitumen all possess high asphaltene contents, and consequently exhibit complex properties such as aggregation, high viscosity and low diffusivity. A recent characterisation of the aggregation in physically separated vacuum residues was carried out by a world-wide team made up of Joëlle Eyssautier†‡, Didier Espinat†, Jérémie Gummel§, Pierre Levitz‡, Mildred Becerra*, John Shaw* and Loïc Barré†.
To help assess the persistence of such structures close to refining temperatures, a Linkam HFS350X has been used on both a homemade SAXS facility (see Figure) at IFP Energies Nouvelles and on the ID02 beam-line at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble. Small Angle (SAXS), Ultra-small Angle (USAXS) and Wide Angle (WAXS) heating experiments were carried out in the range from room temperature to 300°C on samples contained in a customised holder.
Results show that the methodology of the study of asphaltenes in toluene is directly applicable to petroleum feedstocks, helping to explain their aggregation behavior with temperature.
The full research paper has been published by the American Chemical Society and can be viewed in their journal Energy and Fuels
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†IFP Energies nouvelles, 1-4 avenue de Bois-Préau, 92852 Rueil-Malmaison Cedex, France
‡Physique de la Matière Condensée, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)−École Polytechnique, UMR 7643 CNRS, 91128 Palaiseau Cedex, France
§European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), BP 220, 38043 Grenoble Cedex 9, France
*Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2G6, Canada