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Crude Oil Characteristics Research

July 9, 2015 - 1:00pm

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The DOE Office of Fossil Energy wanted to identify the actions needed to obtain a science-based understanding of outstanding questions associated with the production, treatment, and transportation of various types of crude oil, including Bakken crude oil.

In support of that effort, DOE - in collaboration with the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) - asked Sandia National Laboratories to prepare the March 2015 report entitled Literature Survey of Crude Oil Properties Relevant to Handling and Fire Safety in Transport. The Sandia report was an important step in developing a more complete understanding of outstanding scientific questions associated with the production, treatment, and transportation of various types of crude oil. It identified gaps in important crude oil characterization data; uncertainty and a lack of uniformity regarding how best to sample, test and analyze crude oil to ensure that its properties are accurately determined; and deficiencies in the understanding of how crude oil properties affect its potential for accidental ignition, combustion, and explosion.

DOE and DOT also asked Sandia to prepare recommendations to address these gaps.  In response, Sandia prepared a comprehensive Crude Oil Characteristics Research Sampling, Analysis and Experiment (SAE) Plan, which contains recommendations on research needed to improve understanding of transport-critical crude oil and especially tight crude oil properties including:

  • Identifying the most appropriate sampling and testing methods for crude oils
  • Sampling, testing and compilation of data on different crude oils using those methods
  • Initial combustion testing to identify relationships between a particular chemical or physical property of crude oil, or combination of such properties, and combustion properties
  • Possible full-scale combustion tests

DOE and DOT have decided to support a focused portion of the effort described in the Sampling, Analysis and Experiment (SAE) Plan. Sandia has assembled a team with expertise in petroleum chemistry, crude oil treatment practices, and combustion science, and has existing facilities at which all necessary field tests can be performed.

  • DOT plans to fund work at Sandia to identify the most appropriate sampling and testing methods and DOE will support initial combustion testing to identify relationships between a particular chemical or physical property of crude oil, or combination of such properties, and combustion properties.
  • There are currently no plans to fund the full-scale combustion tests or the comprehensive sampling and analysis that are described in Tasks 5 and 6 of the SAE Plan.   Such work may also be appropriate for support from other sources, including industry.

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