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Nanocatalysts for in situ bitumen upgrading can produce higher quality liquid with lower environmental and cost impacts

31 December 2013

Researchers at the University of Calgary have developed Ni−W−Mo ultradisperse nanocatalysts for the in situ upgrading of Athabasca bitumen. A report on their work is published in the ACS journal Energy & Fuels. Current heavy oil and bitumen production processes are high-energy and water-intensive and, consequently, have significant environmental footprints because of the production of gaseous emissions such as CO2 and generating huge amounts of produced water.

In situ catalytic conversion or upgrading is a promising cost-effective and environmentally friendly technology that aims at reducing the environmental footprints of oil sand exploitation and producing of high-quality oil that meets pipeline and refinery specifications.

—Hashemi et al.

The researches tested the nanocatalysts in a packed-bed flow reactor at a high pressure and temperature. Experiments were performed at a pressure of 3.5 MPa, temperatures from 320 to 340 °C, and a hydrogen flow rate of 1 cm3/min.

The produced liquid was analyzed on the basis of residue conversion; microcarbon residue (MCR) content; sulfur and nitrogen contents; American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity; and viscosity.

Results showed that nanocatalysts enhanced the quality of Athabasca bitumen by increasing the API gravity and decreasing the viscosity and MCR, sulfur, and nitrogen contents. Nanocatalysts effectively favored the hydrogenation reactions and inhibited the massive formation of coke that usually occurs via olefin polymerization and heavy free radical condensation during the classical thermal cracking process of heavy oils.

detailed simulated distillation analysis of the produced samples shows quality enhancement of the produced samples as well as effectiveness of the nanocatalyst presence inside the medium. Therefore, catalytic in situ displacement of oil in conjunction with hydrogen injection can result in not only produced high- quality liquid but also the advantages of less environmental impact and cost-effectiveness.

—Hashemi et al.

Resources

  • Rohallah Hashemi, Nashaat N. Nassar, and Pedro Pereira Almao (2013) “In Situ Upgrading of Athabasca Bitumen Using Multimetallic Ultradispersed Nanocatalysts in an Oil Sands Packed-Bed Column: Part 1. Produced Liquid Quality Enhancement,” Energy & Fuels doi: 10.1021/ef401716h

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