Microwave-assisted solvent deasphalting of heavy fuel oil and process parameters optimization

Biswajit Saha, Sundaramurthy Vedachalam, Atanu Kumar Paul, Ajay K. Dalai, Saumitra Saxena, William L. Roberts, Frederick L. Dryer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As petroleum recovery has progressed historically, the portion of heavier crudes and bottom of the barrel residues from the refining process has increased. These crudes are challenging to process, leaving vacuum residues with large fractions of ash and refractory sulfur due to high asphaltene content. Asphaltenes are known to form coke in catalytic upgraders and deactivate refining catalysts. Asphaltenes, which are present in significant amounts in heavy crudes, are the cause of reduction of combustion efficiency, clogging of refinery pipes, and particulate matter emissions. Asphaltenes can be removed from heavy crudes by solvent deasphalting. But the requirement of a high solvent to oil ratio limits its commercial viability. To lower the requirement of solvent, this study investigates deasphalting of heavy fuel oil (HFO) with n-heptane, n-hexane, and n-pentane by microwave-assisted, ultrasound-assisted, and supercritical solvent deasphalting methods. Among the different methods investigated, the microwave-assisted method was found to be more efficient and removed 88 and 80 wt% of asphaltenes from HFO with heptane and hexane, respectively. Microwave irradiation selectively heats asphaltenes in microwave transparent non-polar solvents and increases the degree of collision of asphaltenes for aggregation and thus precipitation. Besides, resins are readily solubilized by the solvent under microwave heating and thus they are unable to act as peptizing agents of asphaltenes. The optimization of process parameters such as solvent to HFO ratio, microwave power, and holding time was investigated for microwave-assisted deasphalting using Central Composite Design (CCD) and artificial neural network (ANN). The optimum removal of asphaltene was observed when the solvent to HFO ratio, microwave power, and holding time were kept at 3, 150 W, and 20 min, respectively. Deasphalting also significantly improved the quality of HFO by dropping the viscosity along with the sulfur and nitrogen contents of HFO. The outcomes of this study are significant for the petrochemical industry as potentially improved crude oil processing with lower solvent to HFO ratios can be achieved in a more effective, economical manner using microwave assistance.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)128818
StatePublished - Jun 11 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-06-14
Acknowledgements: The authors are thankful to King Abdullah University of Science and Technology for the financial support and Ms. Do Phuong Rosa for the support in analytical studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Organic Chemistry
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology


Dive into the research topics of 'Microwave-assisted solvent deasphalting of heavy fuel oil and process parameters optimization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this