Definition - What does Asphalt mean?

Asphalt is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon which is thick and viscous in nature. It has a very high pour point and is usually a solid room temperature. It is also produced in oil refineries and is known as bitumen or coal tar. It a black, sticky and highly viscous liquid generated by petroleum refineries after crude oil distillation through a vacuum distillation unit. It is generally considered as a byproduct or a residue of the refining process.

Petropedia explains Asphalt

Asphaltene (in the form of asphalt) is generated as a residual byproduct when crude oil is processed in a petroleum refinery. It is often used with bitumen to prepare tar, which is used for paving roads and waterproofing roofs.

Heavy crude oil is highly viscous and has high sulfur content. Refineries capitalize on low-end petroleum byproducts such as asphalt, bitumen, lubricants and tar, which are sold to road product manufacturers and rubber tire manufacturers. The petroleum industry prioritizes the removal of asphaltene from crude oil during processing because it clogs highly capitalized infrastructure, such as well tubular, crude oil pipelines and subsurface equipment such as pumps and compressors. This clogging can eventually halt the production and lead to corrosion in the refinery's infrastructure.

Heavy category crude oil has a high concentration of asphaltene though it usually remains stable during the production and does not lead to well clogging. However, there is a greater chance of well clogging when producing a light category crude oil because it has varying amounts of asphaltene that may get deposited into the production tubes and clog them.

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