The Mexican Oil Institute (IMP) has come up with new biosurfactants – substances that allow an emulsion to form – which can reduce oil viscosity and lower operating costs of heavy oil.
About fifty percent of crude oil reserves in Mexico are of heavy and extra-heavy types. Petroleum company Pemex has shown interest in an innovative technology that can reduce the operational costs of heavy oil and their production time.
The latest development of IMP allows for the operational flexibility in the transport of crude oils. The transport is done through ducts, from the production centers to refineries. This in turn reduces operational costs, serving the needs of Pemex.
Transport problems of heavy oil generally generate pressure drops and heating of the hydrocarbon, which in turn costs money and production time. The project consists of mixing the oil with water with the aid of biosurfactants. These biosurfactants contain particular molecules and are derived from plant biomass, trees, grass, as well as corn and wheat residue.
Head of the research, Dr. Jorge Arturo Aburto Anell from IMP said “What we did was to get a fraction of these molecules and modify them in a way that would allow a stable emulsion of oil in water. It is similar to mayonnaise, only with less water. We are talking about a virtually solid oil, and when we emulsify it in water, the resulting viscosity is equivalent to that of a liquid flowing without any problems. Furthermore, the process does not change the composition and properties of the hydrocarbon.”
In the oilfields, a lot of water is dispersed in the oil. This increases the viscosity and generates transport problems. A solution would be making an inverse emulsion density that reduces the operating problems associated with chemical compounds such as asphaltene and paraffin. By making the emulsion, oil viscosity is substantially reduced.
IMP also plans for an on site testing. The technological tests in this case will be done in a Pemex well and will allow to measure the real situation in technical and economic feasibility.
Image Credits: Investigación y Desarrollo