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Well Resources Develops Commercial Non-Combustion Uses for Petroleum Asphaltenes
Calgary, AB, February 26, 2019 – Well Resources, a leader in developing and licensing cost-effective and environmentally friendly refining technologies, announced that it has filed a patent for non-combustion uses for petroleum asphaltenes. Well Resources' commitment to research in the petroleum sector has led to significant discoveries that change the landscape of the petroleum value chain.
The invention is based on the surprising discovery of unique properties of asphaltenes which are dry, solid granules from Well Resources' commercial SELEX-Asp process.
Chemical analyses showed that solid asphaltenes are non-reactive and pose no biological health risks. Leachability studies demonstrated that asphaltenes are virtually non-leachable. Adsorption studies showed that asphaltenes are excellent adsorbents for dissolved organic contaminants.
Well Resources' patent covers the use of asphaltenes to address important environmental issues, particularly for industrial-scale water treatment and soil remediation. The patent further discusses methods of transforming asphaltenes into fibers, mats, and fillers for various applications, including its use as containing-materials for bioreactors that have a water decontamination effect.
“We are very excited about this commercial cross-sector innovation,” said Warren Chung, P.Eng., President, Well Resources. “We can now use petroleum by-product as a low-cost substance to remediate contaminated water and soil and mitigate against future contamination. The non-combustion uses of these asphaltenes has an added benefit of providing significant carbon storage for the petroleum industry.”
Well Resources is also pleased to announce that in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it has entered into preliminary discussions with a municipality in Southern China to utilize asphaltenes to remediate a nearby body of water. The project is among the six major river decontamination demonstrations in China.
Asphaltenes are naturally occurring hydrocarbons comprised of 85-87% carbon, and are found in increasing amounts in heavy and ultra-heavy crudes. It is not economically viable to convert asphaltenes into clean transportation fuels.
Refiners utilize two strategies for dealing with asphaltenes: hydrogen addition and carbon rejection. Hydrogen addition technologies transform a fraction of asphaltenes into smaller and more manageable molecules, but such processes are expensive and highly energy intensive. Carbon rejection entails removal of heavy petroleum sub-fractions, and includes asphaltene removal by thermal separation into petroleum coke.
Petroleum coke may be used as a solid fuel substitute for power generation but is more commonly stockpiled or disposed of at a cost to a refiner. Conventional solvent-based or slurry phase separation processes produce semi-liquid or pitch by-products that require secondary treatment or specialized disposal.
“By utilizing our SELEX-Asp process to produce solid, granular, and environmentally friendly asphaltenes, we can finally make use of the whole barrel of oil and avoid the need for environmentally damaging operations, such as producing tailings ponds or underground waste injection,” according to Chung. “A core tenant in our company philosophy has always been ‘effective resource utilization’, which means looking for ways to realize value where others see waste.”