The prime focus of the Centre is to investigate physiochemical aspects of crude oils and crude oil emulsions with a view to improving the recovery and processing of these natural resources in more environmentally acceptable ways. One particular example is the oil sands deposits in the Athabasca region of Alberta, Canada.
Crude oils are exceptionally complex fluids, containing a range of chemical species ranging from simple hydrocarbons to more complex polar materials. The hydrocarbons are the most valuable components of crude oils, and these comprise the petroleum fuels (gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, …) familiar to most people. In the case of heavy and viscous crude oils (heavy, extra-heavy and bitumen), the proportion of polar species is much higher and this often leads to problems owing to interactions with surfaces and interfaces.
Surfaces and interfaces
During the recovery, production and processing of crude oils, the polar components can come into contact with different key interfaces:
These are responsible for phenomena such as wettability, emulsion formation and foaming, respectively. Each of these phenomena has its own consequences for heavy oil recovery.
Compositional analysis of oil sands:
- Water-soluble components
- Oil-based components
- Solids analysis
- Emulsion Characterisation