Sep. 7, 2006 Offshore oil producers long have dreamed of the technological equivalent of a magic wand: Wave it over pipelines carrying the thick crude oil produced in much of the world, and the oil thins out for just a few hours.
This would allow it to be pumped more easily and economically through pipelines to onshore storage tanks where it would then return to its natural viscous condition.
Rongina Tao and Xiaojun Xu now report development of one such method for reducing the viscosity (thickness) of crude oil. Their report is scheduled for the Sept. 20 issue of the ACS journal, Energy & Fuels.
The method uses a magnetic field to make tiny wax-like particles in paraffin-base crude oil clump together into a smaller number of large particles; an electric field is used to aggregate tiny asphaltene particles in asphalt-base crude oil into large ones. That clumping reduces oil's viscosity for a few hours.
"Asphalt-based crude oil and mixed base crude oil [thick oils] constitute a large portion of world crude oil production," Tao and Xu write in the article.
"Especially in North America, most crude oil resources, including Alaska oil, are asphalt-based. We believe the finding reported in this paper is thus very significant."
Reference: "Reducing The Viscosity of Crude Oil by Pulsed Electric or Magnetic Field." Energy & Fuels
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