The Effect of Molecular Composition on the Electro-Deposition of Asphaltene

Xia, Shunxiang (University of Houston) | Kostarelos, Konstantinos (University of Houston)

OnePetro 

Abstract

Asphaltene deposition and plugging of pipelines during oil production and transportation is considered a challenging flow assurance issue. Instead of adding dispersants, the concept proposes to remove asphaltenes from the flow stream by means of electro–deposition prior to transportation to prevent later deposition. This study mainly examined the effect of molecular composition on the efficiency of electro-deposition. Two sources of asphaltene, namely asphaltenes from coal tar ("AS-C") and asphaltenes from bitumen ("AS-B") with different molecular composition were collected in this study. Elemental analysis revealed that both AS-B and AS-C possessed transition metals (V and Ni) and heteroatoms (O, N and S). The effect of oil components on the stability of two asphaltenes was studied. After conducting the electro–deposition of both asphaltenes with various oil components and electric field strength, the deposition charge and recover rate was recorded and compared. During stability test, the amount of precipitated AS-B decreased with increasing aromaticity of solvent, while that of AS-C was constant. For electro–deposition, the electro–kinetic behavior of AS-C reveals strong sensitivity to the oil components. Interestingly, both asphaltenes exhibited a change in the net charge, which occurred under 6000 V/cm and 12000 V/cm for AS-B and AS-C respectively, as evidenced by a change in the electrode upon which deposition ocurred. Based on the results, the efficiency of electro–deposition is confirmed to depend upon the metal and heteroatoms of asphaltenes; in addition, and by interaction with these elements, the oil composition and electric field affected the stability, net charge, and electro–kinetic behavior of apshaltene. However, our study is the first to show that the current density plays a role in the net charge of the asphaltene molecule and offers an explanation to the controversy over the polarity or the charge sign of asphaltenes, which gives a clue to understanding the microstructure of asphaltenes. In addition, this is the first study to include the effect of oil components and electric field strength on the performance of deposition, which makes further optimization of the proposed process possible.