Separation of Asphaltenes by Polarity using Liquid-Liquid Extraction

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In order to investigate the nature of petroleum asphaltenes in terms of polarity a process was developed using initial liquid-liquid extraction of the oil phase followed by precipitation of the asphaltenes using n-heptane. The liquid-liquid extraction was performed using toluene-methanol mixtures with increasing content of toluene. Although large fractions of the crude oil (Alaska ´93) was extracted in the higher polarity solvents (high concentration of methanol), the asphaltene content of the dissolved material was low. As the toluene content increased more asphaltenes were transferred to the solvent phase. The asphaltenes were analysed using FTir, Elemental analysis, and HPLC-SEC with a diode array detector. With increasing content of toluene in the methanol the molecular weight distribution of the asphaltenes significantly move to higher molecular weights. The content of nitrogen and sulfur of the maltene phase also increase while H/C decreases. The content of heteroatoms in the asphaltenes are relatively higher and apparently increase with the polarity of the solvent. It is concluded that these asphaltenes are indeed dominated by high molecular weight substances that cannot be extracted in the high polarity solvents.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPetroleum, Science and Technology
Pages (from-to)185
Publication statusPublished - 1997

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