(242h) Characteristics of Unconventional and Heavy Oils: Their Economic and Environmental Impacts in Production and Processing

Riazi, M. R., Kuwait University
Production of conventional oils (generally with API>20) is less costly and less pollutant to unconventional oils which include shale oil (or kerogen oil), oil sands (or bituminous sands) and heavy oils. In addition, liquid fuels produced from coal or gas to liquid fuel may also be considered under unconventional oil category. As production of conventional oil is in decline, production of unconventional oil becomes increasingly important in meeting future world energy demand.

The world conventional oil resources is estimate around 1,300 billion barrels of oil in place while total world shale oil resources is estimated around 5 trillion barrels. In addition the amount of heavy oil and tar sands is estimated at 3 to 4 trillion barrels. Even with 20% recovery from these unconventional resources, proven unconventional oil resources exceed from those of conventional sources.

The nature and constituents of shale oil, oil sands and heavy oils are significantly different from those of light and conventional oils [1]. Production, processing and consumption of these energy sources cause environmental issues such as carbon emission, atmospheric pollutants (acid rain, smog, ozone, etc.) as well as hazardous wastes and aqueous effluents. Processing cost of unconventional oil is also higher than conventional oils [2,3,4]. In this presentation at first the differences between conventional and unconventional oils especially from compositional and elemental points of views are discussed. Some important characteristics of unconventional oils such as metals, sulfur, nitrogen, asphaltene contents, estimation methods and their impacts on the selection of processing method and related costs will be discussed. Finally world refining investment patterns in relation with processing of heavy oil and residues will be analyzed and discussed.


[1] Riazi, M. R., “Characterization and Properties of Petroleum Fractions,” ASTM International, Conshohocken, PA, USA, 2007. 435p.

[2] Riazi, M. R., Eser, S., Agrawal, S. S., Pena Diez, J. L., “Petroleum Refining and Natural Gas Processing” ASTM International, Conshohocken, PA, USA, 2013. 811p.

[3] Riazi, M. R., (Ed.) “Exploration and Production of Petroleum and Natural Gas” ASTM International, Conshohocken, PA, USA, 2016. 739p.

[4] Riazi, M. R., Gupta, R., (Ed.) “Coal Production and Processing Technology” CRC Press, Taylor & Francis, FA, USA, 2015. 535p.