Asphaltenes yield curve measurements on a microfluidic platform
We describe a microfluidic apparatus and method for performing asphaltene yield measurements on crude oil samples. Optical spectroscopy measurements are combined with a microfluidic fluid handling platform to create an automated microfluidic apparatus to measure the asphaltene yield. The microfluidic measurements show good agreement with conventional wet chemistry measurements as well as available models. The initial absorbance of the oil is measured, and asphaltenes are removed from the oil by the gradual addition of n-alkane, which leads to flocculation and subsequent filtration. The absorbance of the de-asphalted oil (maltenes) is then measured and the initial asphaltene content is determined by the change in absorbance. The solubility of asphaltene is evaluated by varying the titrant-to-oil ratio (e.g., n-heptane–oil), which induces no, partial, or full precipitation of asphaltenes depending on the chosen ratio. The absorbance of the filtrate is measured and normalized to the maximum content to determine the fractional precipitation at each ratio. Traditionally, a yield curve comprised of 20 such ratios would require weeks to months to generate, while consuming over 6 L of solvent and more than 100 g of crude oil sample. Using the microfluidic approach described here, the same measurement can be performed in 1 day, with 0.5 L of solvent and 10 g of crude oil sample. The substantial reduction in time and consumables will enable more frequent asphaltene yield measurements and reduce its environmental impact significantly.