Viscosity Reduction and Upgrading of Athabasca Oilsands Bitumen by Natural Zeolite Cracking
Oilsands bitumen is an extremely important source of
energy for North America. However, due to the presence of large
molecules such as asphaltenes, the density and viscosity of the
bitumen recovered from these sands are much higher than those of
conventional crude oil. As a result the extracted bitumen has to be
diluted with expensive solvents, or thermochemically upgraded in
large, capital-intensive conventional upgrading facilities prior to
pipeline transport. This study demonstrates that globally abundant
natural zeolites such as clinoptilolite from Saint Clouds, New Mexico
and Ca-chabazite from Bowie, Arizona can be used as very effective
reagents for cracking and visbreaking of oilsands bitumen. Natural
zeolite cracked oilsands bitumen products are highly recoverable (up
to ~ 83%) using light hydrocarbons such as pentane, which indicates
substantial conversion of heavier fractions to lighter components.
The resultant liquid products are much less viscous, and have lighter
product distribution compared to those produced from pure thermal
treatment. These natural minerals impart similar effect on industrially
extracted Athabasca bitumen.
Natural Zeolites, Oilsands Bitumen, Cracking,Viscosity Reduction, Upgrading.