The Assessment of Microbial Surfactants as Asphaltenes Dispersants: Sophorolipids vs Dodecylbenzenesulfonic Acid

Aguiar, Janaina I. S. (Locus Bio-Energy Solutions) | Rogers, Jonathan (Locus Bio-Energy Solutions) | Mahmoudkhani, Amir (Locus Bio-Energy Solutions)


Abstract Asphaltenes are a major problem for oil industry. Their variability in size, structure and polarity presents a challenge to develop formulations that are effective against precipitation and deposition for all types of asphaltenes. Also, changes in production systems, such as the rate of water break through, can also impact the efficiency of dispersants. In this paper sophorolipids, a class of microbial surfactants, that are renewable and biodegradable with low aquatic toxicity, are tested as asphaltene dispersants. In order to achieve the objectives of this study, asphaltenes were extracted from a heavy oil and their solubility and stability were evaluated at different concentrations of n-heptane and water. The behavior under n-heptane concentration sweep was found to be in line with previous experimental works and water did not change that behavior. The sophorolipids were able to inhibit ~100 % of the polar asphaltenes precipitation at low concentrations. Under similar conditions dodecylobenzesulfonic acid, which was used as a benchmark for comparison, did not perform at concentrations up to 1000 ppm either with or without water. The high performance of biosurfactants is attributed to their enhanced dispersing properties for organics such as wax and asphaltenes.

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