Asphaltenes are components in crude oil known to deposit and interrupt flows in critical regions during oil production, such as the wellbore and transportation pipelines. Chemical dispersants are commonly used to disperse asphaltenes into smaller agglomerates or increase asphaltene stability in solution with the goal of preventing deposition. However, in many cases, these chemical dispersants fail in the field or even worsen the deposition problems in the wellbores. Further understanding of the mechanisms by which dispersants alter asphaltene deposition under dynamic flowing conditions is needed to better understand flow assurance problems. Here, we describe the use of porous media microfluidic devices to evaluate how chemical dispersants change asphaltene deposition. Four commercially used alkylphenol model chemical dispersants are tested with model oils flowing through porous media, and the resulting deposition kinetics are visualized at both the matrix scale and pore scale. Interestingly, initial asphaltene deposition worsens in the presence of the tested dispersants, but the mechanism by which plugging and permeability reduction in the porous media varies. The velocity profiles near the deposit are analyzed to further investigate how shear forces affect asphaltene deposition. The deposition tendency is also related to the intermolecular interactions governing the asphaltene–dispersant systems. Furthermore, the model system is extended to a real case. The use of porous media microfluidic devices offers a unique platform to develop and design effective chemical dispersants for flow assurance problems.
Lin, Y. J., He, P., Tavakkoli, M., Mathew, N. T., Fatt, Y. Y., Chai, J., ... Biswal, S. L. (2017). Characterizing Asphaltene Deposition in the Presence of Chemical Dispersants in Porous Media Micromodels. Energy & Fuels, 31(11), 11660-11668. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.energyfuels.7b01827