Asphaltene processing with suspended nanocatalyst. Relevance to in situ upgrading

F. Isquierdo, P. Pereira-Almao, C.E. Scott
University of Calgary,

Keywords: in situ upgrading, asphaltenes, HDS, Ultradispersed Catalysts


Hot fluid injection is a patented process developed at the University of Calgary by a group of researchers at the Schulich School of Engineering. It focuses on reducing the environmental footprint of heavy oil production by enhancing the upgrading of bitumen or heavy oil directly in the reservoir. As described in the patent, this technology integrates the enhanced recovery and in reservoir catalytic upgrading of bitumen based upon the application of nano-catalytic technology. It is also well known that asphaltenes are the main responsible for coke formation and catalysts deactivation during heavy oil and bitumen processing. A good understanding of asphaltene reactivity and conversion pathways is crucial to better understand and improve this new in situ upgrading process. In the present work the processing of asphaltenes under relatively mild conditions was studied. Different catalytic compositions were tested and the reaction products characterized by Microdeasphalting (MDA), SAR content (Saturate, Aromatic and Resins), coke content, Simulated Distillation (SimDist) and Micro Carbon content (MCR). Six catalysts (NiMo, CoMo, NiW, CoW, FeMo and FeW) were prepared using microemulsions as previously described and the average particle diameters obtained by Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS). The average particle diameters varied from 342 to 13 nm, with the CoMo and FeMo showing the smallest sizes. Asphaltene conversions were high, thus the CoW, CoMo and NiW produced 62, 61 and 60 % conversion, respectively. For the other catalysts the conversion was between 55 and 58 %. In summary it was found that submicrometric catalytic particles can produce relatively high asphaltene conversion at mild reactions conditions.