Asphaltenes, Emulsions and Wax

Asphaltenes are molecular substances found in crude oil, and asphaltene deposits can cause significant impacts for offshore production. This includes reservoir impairment (permeability loss), plugging of wellbores and flowlines, and pump failure. An emulsion is a dispersion (droplets) of one liquid in another immiscible liquid. For produced oilfield emulsions, crude oil is seldom produced alone because it generally is commingled with water. The water creates several problems in almost all phases of oil production and processing and usually increases the unit cost of oil production. Paraffin wax is a white, odourless solid and its deposition can cause a multitude of operational challenges including reduction of the internal diameter of pipelines which can ultimately block flow, increased surface roughness on the pipe wall which causes reduced throughput, and disposal problems.

Our research is focussed on the characterisation and control of interfacial structures that are formed by the native components of crude oil. This can help solve the issues caused by aspahltenes, emulsions and wax, as these structures lead to a greater insight to address flow assurance issues. These complex systems are studied using a range of analytical and purpose built techniques to fully characterise and identify key components or fractions that govern behaviours in the bulk and at the interface. New chemicals to control unwanted behaviours are also explored.

Current and past collaborations include: Croda, ADNOC, Infenium and Universidad de los Andes.

Current research projects include:

We work in collaboration with the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Complex Particulate Products and Processes (cP3).

Key academic contacts: