Monitoring Bitumen-Solvent Interactions with Low-field Nuclear magnetic Resonance and X-ray Computer Assisted Tomography

Wen, Y.W. and Kantzas, A.

DOI: 10.1021/ef049764g
Energy Fuels, 19(4), 2005, Pages 1319–1326.


This work involves the detection and monitoring of solvent interactions with heavy oil and bitumen. Two nondestructive methodslow-field nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) and X-ray computer-assisted tomography (CAT)were used. It is shown that low-field NMR can be a very useful tool in understanding the relationship of viscosity, density, and asphaltene precipitation in bitumen−solvent mixtures. Such mixtures are present in solvent-related heavy oil and bitumen recovery processes, such as vapor extraction (VAPEX). As a solvent comes into contact with a heavy oil or bitumen sample, the mobility of hydrogen-bearing molecules of both solvent and oil changes. These changes are detectable through changes in the NMR relaxation characteristics of both the solvent and the oil and can be correlated to mass flux and concentration changes. Based on Fick’s second law, diffusion coefficients were calculated for combinations of three oils and six solvents. X-ray CAT scanning was also used in parallel for analysis of solvent diffusion into the bitumen. As the solvent was diffusing into the bitumen, a concentration gradient was obtained. Concentration values at certain times were used to calculate diffusion coefficients, which were compared with results obtained from NMR data, using both an analytical method and a numerical method. The diffusion coefficients were considered either as constants or as functions of solvent concentration in two models that have been developed during this research. The overall diffusion coefficients calculated for several pairs of oils and solvents at different ratios, both by NMR data and X-ray tomography, were on the order of 10-6 cm2/s.

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