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Mesoscale Organization in a Physically Separated Vacuum Residue: Comparison to Asphaltenes in a Simple Solvent

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journal contribution
posted on 16.12.2015, 21:24 by Joëlle Eyssautier, Didier Espinat, Jérémie Gummel, Pierre Levitz, Mildred Becerra, John Shaw, Loïc Barré
Physical separation of heavy oils and bitumen is of particular interest because it improves the description of the chemical and structural organization in these industrial and challenging fluids (Zhao, B.; Shaw, J. M. Composition and size distribution of coherent nanostructures in Athabasca bitumen and Maya crude oil. Energy Fuels 2007, 21, 2795−2804). In this study, permeates and retentates, differing in aggregate concentrations and sizes, were obtained from nanofiltration of a vacuum residue at 200 °C with membranes of varying pore size. Elemental composition and density extrapolations show that aggregates are best represented as n-pentane asphaltenes, while the dispersing phase corresponds to n-pentane maltenes. Small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) measurements are processed, on this basis, to calculate the size and mass of the aggregates. Aggregates in the vacuum residue are similar in size and mass to asphaltenes in toluene, and temperature elevation decreases the size of the aggregates. Wide-angle X-ray scattering (WAXS) highlights a coherent domain observed for fluids containing aggregates, corresponding to aromatic stacking described for dry asphaltenes. The scattered signal in this region, not observed in maltenes, grows as aggregate content increases, and the signal persists up to 300 °C. A generic behavior of aggregation in the vacuum residue is depicted, from nanoaggregates to large fractal clusters with high aggregation numbers, that is similar to the organization in toluene.

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