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Phase behaviour prediction for ill-defined hydrocarbon mixtures Open Access


Other title
Athabasca bitumen vacuum residue
stability analysis
thermodynamic model
group contribution
flash calculation
heavy oil
phase behaviour prediction
phase equilibrium
phase diagram
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Saber, Nima
Supervisor and department
Shaw, John (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Examining committee member and department
Babadagli, Tayfun (Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering)
Yeung, Anthony (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Chapman, Walter (Rice University)
Elliot, Janett (Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering)
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
Phase behaviour information is essential for the development and optimization of hydrocarbon resource production, transport and refining technologies. Experimental data sets for mixtures containing heavy oil and bitumen are sparse as phase behaviour data are difficult to obtain and cost remains prohibitive for most applications. A computational tool that predicts phase behaviours reliably for mixtures containing such ill-defined components, over broad temperature, pressure and composition ranges would play a central role in the advancement of bitumen production and refining process knowledge and would have favourable impacts on the economics and environmental effects linked to the exploitation of such ill-defined hydrocarbon resources. Prior to this work, predictive computational methods were reliable for dilute mixtures of ill-defined constituents. To include a much wider range of conditions, three major challenges were addressed. The challenges include: creation of a robust and accurate numerical approach, implementation of a reliable thermodynamic model, and speciation of ill-defined constituents like Athabasca Bitumen Vacuum Residue (AVR). The first challenge was addressed by creating a novel computational approach based on a global minimization method for phase equilibrium calculations. The second challenge was tackled by proposing a thermodynamic model that combines the Peng-Robinson equation of state with group contribution and related parameter prediction methods. The speciation challenge was addressed by another research group at the University of Alberta. Pseudo components they proposed were used to assign groups and estimate thermodynamic properties. The new phase equilibrium computational tool was validated by comparing simulated phase diagrams with experimental data for mixtures containing AVR and n-alkanes. There is good qualitative and quantitative agreement between computed and experimental phase diagrams over industrially relevant ranges of compositions, pressures and temperatures. Mismatch was only observed over a limited range of compositions, temperatures and pressures. This computational breakthrough provides, for the first time, a platform for reliable phase behaviour computations with broad potential for application in the hydrocarbon resource sector. The specific computational results can be applied directly to solvent assisted recovery, paraffinic deasphalting, and distillation and refining processes for Athabasca bitumen a strategic resource for Canada.
License granted by Nima Saber ( on 2011-01-26T08:37:11Z (GMT): Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of the above terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis, and except as herein provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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