Asphaltene

Definition - What does Asphaltene mean?

Asphaltene is a molecular substance that is found in crude oil along with other petroleum constituents, such as paraffins, naphthenes, aromatics and resins. It consists of molecules of sulfur, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen and oxygen, along with traces of vanadium and nickel. The carbon-to-hydrogen ratio (C:H ratio) in asphaltenes is close to 1:1.2 depending on the source of the asphaltenes.

Corrosionpedia explains Asphaltene

Asphaltene is always present in crude oil, and it needs to be removed during the processing phases of crude oil in a refinery. In the petroleum industry, asphaltenes are best known for clogging highly capitalized infrastructure, such as well tubulars, crude oil pipelines, and sub-surface equipment such as pumps and compressors. This can eventually bring production to a halt.

The heavy category crude oil has high concentrations of ashphaltene but this concentration usually remains stable during heavy crude oil productions and thus it does not promote well clogging. However, there are more chances of well clogging when a light category of crude oil is produced because it has varying amounts of ashphaltene concentrations, which may get deposited into the production tubular in unknown amounts at various places, and need to be checked at regular intervals.

When a crude oil is refined, asphaltene in the form of asphalt is generated and is considered to be a waste material or byproduct (low-quality and low-cost material), and is generally used with bitumen in preparation of charcoal further used in the preparation of roads, roof proofing, etc.
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