• What is Petroleomics?

Fuel for Thought

What is Petroleomics?

Oct 22 2021

Petroleum is an incredibly complex material, with the average sample made up of more than 20,000 unique elements. Advances in analytical techniques and technologies have allowed scientists to fingerprint petroleum at the molecular level and unlock detailed insight into the characteristics of a sample. The field is known as petroleomics and has become an invaluable tool for producers, refiners and buyers.

A complete petroleum profile

Petroleomics empowers scientists with the ability to profile all four of the major hydrocarbon groups found in crude – paraffins, naphthenes, aromatics and asphaltics. The field also reveals elemental composition and offers a detailed map of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, sulphur and metals ratios. Within these groups are thousands of unique elements that can affect the quality, price and overall suitability of crude oil.

As well as identifying and quantifying the individual chemical constituents present in a petroleum sample, advanced instruments allow scientists to observe and track the interactions that take place between each component.

The role of ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry

Advances in analytical technologies and instruments has fuelled the advent of petroleomics. Ultra-high-resolution mass spectrometry has been fundamental, allowing researchers to isolate, analyse, identify and quantify thousands of individual elements present in a single petroleum sample.

Enforcing quality control

Crude is priced according to quality, and petroleomics ensures the market is regulated by strict quality control procedures. The ability to characterise crude at the molecular level improves transparency across the board and ensures buyers have detailed insight into the geochemical origins of a product, as well as its unique chemical fingerprint.

Identifying heteroatom-containing organic compounds

Petroleomics has emerged as a valuable tool for identifying heteroatom-containing organic compounds - any atom other than hydrogen or carbon. These types of atoms can affect the reactivity of organic molecules and compromise efficiency during the processing and refining stages. The presence of heteroatom-containing organic compounds can also damage costly equipment and compromise the quality of the finished product.

For example, high sulphur levels may indicate a product with above average emissions that may not meet industry regulations. High-sulphur crude can also fast-track corrosion and oxidation, risking damage to expensive refining equipment. Ultra-high resolution mass spectrometry is used to identify these compounds and determine the suitability and value of a sample.

Want to know more about the latest advances in petroleomics? Don’t miss PEFTEC, a global analytical conference spotlighting petroleum and refining technologies from around the world.


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