Centre for Energy

Emulsion prediction in crude oil production

For the producers and processors of hydrocarbon fluids, emulsions of crude oil and formation water often cause serious problems that require expensive solutions.

Such emulsions can often have a viscosity an order of magnitude larger than that of the free oil; avoiding them therefore is a substantial flow assurance challenge. Current treatment regimes are costly and often employed preemptively owing to the extreme difficulty of reliable prediction of emulsion formation.

Two-dimensional gas chromatography provides a powerful tool for characterisation of crude oils and their individual components or compound classes.

Through solvent fractionation of local and international crude oils, we have separated a discrete class of compounds associated with asphaltenes, a major emulsion causing component in crude oil.

Ongoing research has shown a very strong correlation of emulsion formation tendencies of oils to the quantity of this new class of compounds present in crude oils.

This could have a great impact on oil producers as they would be able to more accurately predict the emulsion formation tendencies of oils and determine what treatment, if any, was required prior to production.