Post Production Heavy Oil Operations: A Case for Partial Upgrading



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The transportation of heavy oil is a pressing problem. Various methods have been devised to mitigate the reluctance to flow of these highly dense and viscous oils. This study is focused on evaluating a case for post-production partial upgrading of heavy oil. Specifically, we analyze the impact of visbreaking, a mild thermal cracking method, on the economic and energy demands of the post-production process.

Using conservative modeling techniques and principles we find significant cost and energy savings can potentially result out of visbreaking. Cost savings result as a consequence of reduced diluent usage. Even the most conservative modeling scenario under consideration exhibits significant cost savings in the form of reduced diluent usage; these savings not only offset operational costs but provide short payback periods on capital expenditures. Additionally, the lower gravity blend resulting from visbreaking can also bring about energy and cost savings in pipeline transportation and positively impact the heavy oil value chain from the producer to a refinery or regional upgrading facility.

From this basic analysis of the potential of visbreaking, we can recommend investing resources to study its viability in the field. Using this analysis as a tipping off point and with a detailed look at the chemistry of the oil in question it is possible to make a very viable case for visbreaking. In a similar vein, this analysis can serve as a guide in making a case for other partial upgrading methods as well.