Perspectives on Microfluidics for the Study of Asphaltenes in Upstream Hydrocarbon Production: A Minireview

Mrityunjay K. Sharma, Ryan L. Hartman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The utilization of microfluidics has generated deep insights into asphaltene precipitation mechanisms and oil-water emulsion stabilization. Agglomeration and precipitation of asphaltenes can cause flow assurance problems during the extraction and transportation of crude oil. Change in temperature, pressure, reservoir conditions, and solvents can change the local environment, leading to asphaltene precipitation. Understanding asphaltene properties and precipitation pathways becomes critical in devising mitigation methods, demulsifiers, and suitable conditions during hydrocarbon processing. Microfluidics has helped in high throughput measurement studies, understanding critical processing conditions, fast demulsifier screening, and the effect of solvent concentration on deposition, generating useful information for utilization at the point of resource extraction facilitating improved resource management. It has become possible to capture the porous, complex nature of reservoir formations and the interaction of chemicals during precipitation through integrated analytics and visualization studies available only through microfluidics. The use of droplet microfluidics, with optical microscopy and high-speed imaging to study the oil-water interface, has resulted in greater understanding of the role of asphaltenes in interfacial properties and emulsion stabilization. This minireview highlights the crucial aspects of microfluidics that have been used to understand physicochemical behavior and dynamics of asphaltene deposition. Some of the unique devices have been presented focusing on the key elements of microfluidics design, fabrication, and analysis, as the insight obtained from microfluidics strongly depends on the device design and the controllability of the experimental parameters. Successful implementation of microfluidics for efficient and controlled experiments, short analysis time scales and rapid screening, and generation of high-quality, reliable data that convey asphaltene deposition issues and interface behavior in emulsions shows the importance of microsystems for advancing knowledge in hydrocarbon production and processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8591-8606
Number of pages16
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 18 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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