Asphaltene and the paraffin wax that is intertwined with it, exists in some heavy crude oil deposits. With the recent hydraulic fracturing revolution taking place across the world, new old deposits that are deep within the planet’s crust are being tapped into. Unfortunately, these deposits, while a valuable source of energy, are also rich in aphaltenes and paraffin deposits that can not only clog pipelines and equipment, but also cause issues and clog automotive fuel system filters if not dealt with by the time it reaches the end consumer.
The word asphaltene was created by Boussingault in the early 1800s. He noticed that the distillation residue of bitumens (hydrocarbons/oil) exhibited asphalt like properties. Due to aspahltene’s sticky nature, its most commonly mixed with rocks and debris that forms the modern roadways used in many countries for motor vehicles. This substance, while useful in applications such as the previously mentioned asphalt roadways, clog up oil pipelines, oil refinery equipment and even fuel systems in motor vehicles if present in fuel supplies and used repeatedly over time.
Asphaltene and accompanying paraffin wax build ups can be remediated by cleaning and snaking out pipes through manual and labor intensive practices. This removal method typically involves the most downtime for plant and operations because pumps and processing must be halted for the work to be completed. Another method is chemical remediation using an aphaltene solvent. Asphaltene solvents have the advantages of being a three in one solution. First off, a solvent may act as an inhibitor in a production environment by either chemical injection or batch treatments. By being introduced as an inhibitor, this prevents the asphaltene build up from happening to begin with. Secondly, the solvent can remediate paraffin deposits by breaking up and dispersing the hardened deposits for easy removal and pick up by cleaning crews. Finally, existing deposits can be dissolved in systems by utilizing the solvent’s inherit properties.
If an ounce of prevention can be worth a pound of cure, more companies should be embracing solvents in the future to remediate costly build ups before they start.