Centre for Petroleum and Surface Chemistry

The Centre for Petroleum and Surface Chemistry was set up in September 2012, with a prime focus of investigating physio chemical aspects of crude oils and crude oil emulsions to improve 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.

Research themes


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:

  • Solid-liquid
  • Liquid-liquid
  • Gas-liquid

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.

Contact us

If you'd like to find out more about what we are doing, or get involved, then please contact Professor Spencer Taylor at s.taylor@surrey.ac.uk.