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Determination of Asphaltene Critical Nanoaggregate Concentration Region Using Ultrasound Velocity Measurements

Lookup NU author(s): Alex Svalova, Professor Nick ParkerORCiD, Dr Geoffrey AbbottORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Asphaltenes constitute the heaviest, most polar and aromatic fraction of petroleum crucial to the formation of highlystable water-in-crude oil emulsions. The latter occur during crude oil production as well as spills and cause difficulties to efficient remediation practice. It is thought that in nanoaggregate form, asphaltenes create elastic layers around water droplets enhancing stability of the emulsion matrix. Ultrasonic characterisation is a high-resolution non-invasive tool in colloidal analysis shown to successfully identify asphaltene nanoaggregation in toluene. The high sensitivity of acoustic velocity to molecular rearrangements and ease in implementation renders it an attractive method to study asphaltene phase properties. Currently, aggregation is thought to correspond to an intersection of two concentration-ultrasonic velocity regressions. Our measurements indicate a variation in the proximity of nanoaggregation which is not accounted for by present models. We attribute this uncertainty to physico-chemical heterogeneity of the asphaltene fraction driven by variation in molecular size and propose a critical nanoaggregation region. We treated asphaltenes from North and South American crude oils with ruthenium ion catalysed oxidation to characterise their n-alkyl appendages attached to aromatic cores. Principal component analysis was performed to investigate the coupling between asphaltene structures and velocity measurements and their impact on aggregation.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Svalova A, Parker NG, Povey MJW, Abbott GD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Scientific Reports

Year: 2017

Volume: 7

Online publication date: 23/11/2017

Acceptance date: 30/10/2017

Date deposited: 24/11/2017

ISSN (print): 2045-2322

ISSN (electronic): 2045-2322

Publisher: Nature Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-16294-5


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Funder referenceFunder name
Newcastle University through British Geological Survey Funding Initiative
Natural Environment Research Council
ngineering and Physical Sciences Research Council