Ultrasound Applied in the Reduction of Viscosity of Heavy Crude Oil

Main Article Content


David Roberto Olaya-Escobar, Ph. D. https://orcid.org/0000-0002-5018-7454
Leonardo Augusto Quintana-Jiménez, Ph. D. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5625-0111
Edgar Emir González-Jiménez, Ph. D. https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3103-3959
Erika Sofia Olaya-Escobar, Ph. D. https://orcid.org/0000-0001-6254-1169


Reducing the viscosity of heavy oil through upgrading techniques is crucial to maintaining the demand for oil, which is growing at an annual rate of 1.8%. The phenomenon of acoustic cavitation occurs when ultrasound is applied in the treatment of heavy crudes. This is an emerging technology that is being developed to improve the physical and chemical properties of highly viscous crudes, which facilitates handling, increases the proportion of light factions, and improves their price in the market. Taking into account that it does not yet operate on an industrial scale, a bibliographic review of the advances in acoustic cavitation technology with ultrasound for the improvement of heavy crude is justified, to contribute to the development of its industrial application by identifying new approaches and research guidelines in engineering and science. The objective of this article is to show the advance of said technology and describe the experiments carried out by various authors. For this purpose, a literature review was conducted with documents published from 1970 to 2020, which were compiled through a systematic search in academic databases. As a result of this review, some conceptual gaps and deficiencies in the phenomenological foundation were found, which explain the current difficulties to implement experimental tests and design the process at larger scales. These deficiencies limit the quality and repeatability of the results. A need was also identified to focus the efforts on a systematic experimentation that fulfills the laboratory and pilot plant phases, which are essential to take these technologies to an industrial scale.


Article Details


Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

All articles included in the Revista Facultad de Ingeniería are published under the Creative Commons (BY) license.

Authors must complete, sign, and submit the Review and Publication Authorization Form of the manuscript provided by the Journal; this form should contain all the originality and copyright information of the manuscript.

The authors who publish in this Journal accept the following conditions:

a. The authors retain the copyright and transfer the right of the first publication to the journal, with the work registered under the Creative Commons attribution license, which allows third parties to use what is published as long as they mention the authorship of the work and the first publication in this Journal.

b. Authors can make other independent and additional contractual agreements for the non-exclusive distribution of the version of the article published in this journal (eg, include it in an institutional repository or publish it in a book) provided they clearly indicate that the work It was first published in this Journal.

c. Authors are allowed and recommended to publish their work on the Internet (for example on institutional or personal pages) before and during the process.
review and publication, as it can lead to productive exchanges and a greater and faster dissemination of published work.

d. The Journal authorizes the total or partial reproduction of the content of the publication, as long as the source is cited, that is, the name of the Journal, name of the author (s), year, volume, publication number and pages of the article.

e. The ideas and statements issued by the authors are their responsibility and in no case bind the Journal.


[1] D. Xu, J. Deng, W. Lin, C. Li, and L. Bai, "Ultrasonic batch processing of ultra heavy oil for viscosity reduction on the industrial scale," in IEEE International Ultrasonics Symposium, Taipei, Taiwan, 2015, pp. 1-4. https://doi.org/10.1109/ULTSYM.2015.0348

[2] F. Jiménez-García, A. Restrepo-Franco, and L. Mulcue-Nieto, "Estado de la investigación en energía en Colombia: una mirada desde los grupos de investigación," Revista Facultad de Ingenieria, vol. 28 (52), pp. 9-26, Jul. 2019. https://doi.org/10.19053/01211129.v28.n52.2019.9651

[3] D. Griesbaum, Karl. Behr and Arno. Biedankapp, "Hydrocarbons," in Ullmann´s Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH Verlag GmbH and Co. KGaA, pp. 133-189, 2012. https://doi.org/10.1002/14356007.a13_227

[4] L. Meléndez, and A. Lache, "Preducción del Análisis SARA de crudos Colombianos aplicando espectroscopia FTIR-ATR y Métodos Quimiometricos," Grade Thesis, Universidad Industrial Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia, 2010. https://repositorio.uis.edu.co/jspui/bitstream/123456789/381/2/133801.pdf

[5] E. Aguirre, El petróleo: una visión sencilla de nuestra industria petrolera. Argentina: El Cid Editor - Ingeniería, 2007.

[6] H. Alboudwarej, J. Felix, and S. Taylor "La importancia del crudo pesado," Oilfield Review, 2006. https://www.slb.com/~/media/Files/resources/oilfield_review/spanish06/aut06/heavy_oil.pdf.

[7] C. Conaway, The Petroleum Industry: A Nontechnical guide. Tulsa: Pennwell Publishing Co, 1999.

[8] R. Martínez-Palou, M.Mosqueira,B. Zapata-Rendón, and E. Mar-Juarez, "Transportation of heavy and extra-heavy crude oil by pipeline: A review," Journal of Petroleum Science and Engineering, vol. 75 (3-4), pp. 274-282, Jan, 2011. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.petrol.2010.11.020

[9] A. Saniere, I. Hénaut, and J. F. Argillier, "Pipeline transportation of heavy oils, a strategic, economic and technological challenge," Oil and Gas Science and Technology, vol. 59 (5), pp. 455-466, Oct. 2004. https://doi.org/10.2516/ogst:2004031

[10] J. C. Díaz Alvarez, R. Martínez Rey, E. J. Patiño Reyes, and R. Barrero Acosta, "Estudio experimental sobre la eficiencia de un tratamiento de ultrasonido en un sistema de flujo continuo para la reducción de viscosidad de crudo pesado," Revista ION, vol. 26 (2), pp. 47-63, Dec. 2013.

[11] L. C. Castañeda, J. A. D. Muñoz, and J. Ancheyta, "Current situation of emerging technologies for upgrading of heavy oils," Catalysis Today, vol. 220-222, pp. 248-273, Mar. 2014. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cattod.2013.05.016

[12] J. C. Díaz Alvarez, R. Martínez Rey, and R. Barrero Acosta, "Líquidos iónicos: propiedades fisicoquímicas y aplicación potencial en el mejoramiento de crudos pesados," Revista ION, vol. 25 (1), pp. 61-87, Mar. 2012.

[13] S. Riaza, F. Cortés, and J. Otlavaro, "Emulsion with heavy crude oil in presence of nanoparticles," Boletin Ciencias la Tierra, vol. 36, pp. 55-68, Jul. 2014. https://doi.org/10.15446/rbct.n36.46282

[14] H. Hamidi, E. Mohammadian, R. Junin, R. Rafati, and A. Azdarpour, "The Effect of Ultrasonic Waves on Oil Viscosity," Petroleum Sciece and Technology, vol. 32 (19), pp. 2387-2395, Oct. 2014. https://doi.org/10.1080/10916466.2013.831873

[15] C. Shi, W. Yang, J. Chen, X. Sun, H. An, and Y. Duo, "Application and mechanism of ultrasonic static mixer in heavy oil viscosity reduction," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 37, pp. 648-653, Jun. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultsonch.2017.02.027

[16] N. A. Pivovarova, "Use of Wave Effect in Processing of the Hydrocarbonic Raw Material (Review)," Petroleum Chemistry, vol. 59 (6), pp. 559-569, Jun. 2019. http://doi.org/10.1134/S0965544119060148

[17] M. Mullakaev, Ultrasonic intensification of the processes of enhanced oil recovery, processing of crude oil and oil sludge, purification of oil-contaminated water. Moscow: ANO History, Economics and Law Research Institute, 2019.

[18] Q. Fan, G. Bai, Q. Liu, Y. Sun, W. Yuan, S. Wu, X. Song, and D. Zhao, "The ultrasound thermal cracking for the tar-sand bitumen," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 50, pp. 354-362, Jan. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultsonch.2018.09.035

[19] H. Hamidi, E. Mohammadian, R. Rafati, and A. Azdarpour, "A role of ultrasonic waves on oil viscosity changes in porous media," in IEEE Conference on Clean Energy and Technology, Langkawi, Malaysia, 2013, pp. 1-6. http://doi.org/10.1109/ceat.2013.6775589

[20] V. O. Abramov, A. V Abramova, V. M. Bayazitov, M. S. Mullakaev, A. V Marnosov, and A. V Ildiyakov, "Acoustic and sonochemical methods for altering the viscosity of oil during recovery and pipeline transportation," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 35 (Part A), pp. 389-396, Mar. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultsonch.2016.10.017

[21] V. O. Abramov, A. Abramova, V. Bayazitov, L. Altunina, A. Gerasin, D. Pashin, and T. Mason, "Sonochemical approaches to enhanced oil recovery," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 25, pp. 76-81, Jul. 2015. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultsonch.2014.08.014

[22] S. Niazi, S. H. Hashemabadi, and M. M. Razi, "CFD simulation of acoustic cavitation in a crude oil upgrading sonoreactor and prediction of collapse temperature and pressure of a cavitation bubble," Chemical Engineering Research and Design, vol. 92 (1), pp. 166-173, Jan. 2014. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cherd.2013.07.002

[23] S. Niazi, H. Hashemabadi, and S. Noroozi, "Numerical Simulation of Operational Parameters and Sonoreactor Configurations for the Highest Possibility of Acoustic Cavitation in Crude Oil," Chemical Engineering Communication, vol. 201 (10), pp. 1340-1359, Apr. 2014. https://doi.org/10.1080/00986445.2013.808999

[24] K. Suslick, "The Chemical Effects of Ultrasound," Scientific America, vol. 260, pp. 80-86, Feb.1989.

[25] V. Streeter, Fluid Mechanics. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1962.

[26] P. Gogate, R. Tayal, and A. Pandit, "Cavitation: A technology on the horizon," Current Science, vol. 91 (1), pp. 35-46, Jul. 2006.

[27] S. Saito, "Ultrasound Field and Bubbles A2 - Grieser, Franz," in Sonochemistry and the Acoustic Bubble, P.-K. Choi, N. Enomoto, H. Harada, K. Okitsu, and K. Yasui, Eds. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2015, pp. 11-39. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-801530-8.00002-5

[28] C. D. Harrison, C. E. Raleigh, and B. J. Vujnovic, "The Use of Ultrasound for Cleaning Coal," in Proceedings of the 19th Annual International Coal Preparation Exhibition and Conference, Lexington, USA, 2000, pp. 61-67.

[29] K. Yasui, "Dynamics of Acoustic Bubbles," in Sonochemistry and the Acoustic Bubble, P.-K. Choi, Ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2015, pp. 41-83. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-801530-8.00003-7

[30] T. J. Mason, and J. P. Lorimer, Applied sonochemistry: The uses of power ultrasound in chemistry and processing. Weinheim: Wiley-VCH Verlag, 2002.

[31] P. Gogate, and A. Wilhelm, "Some aspects of the design of sonochemical reactors,” Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 10, pp. 325-330, 2003. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1350-4177(03)00103-2

[32] K. S. Suslick and G. J. Price, "Applications of Ultrasound to Materials Chemistry," Annual Review of Materials Science, vol. 29, pp. 295-326, Aug.1999. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.matsci.29.1.295

[33] H. Nomura y S. Koda, "What Is Sonochemistry? A2 - Grieser, Franz," in Sonochemistry and the Acoustic Bubble. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2015, pp. 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-801530-8.00001-3

[34] T. J. Mason, "Sonochemistry: A technology for tomorrow," Chemistry and Industry, vol. 1, pp. 47-50, Jan. 1993.

[35] T. Y. Wu, N. Guo, C. Y. Teh, and J. X. Wen Hay, "Advances in ultrasoundTechnology for Environmental Remediation," in SpringerBrief in Green Chemistry for Sustainability. Netherlands: Springer, 2013, pp. 1-120-. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-5533-8

[36] C. Dopazo, "¿Cavitar o no Cavitar? La inevitable ubicuidad de las burbujas," 2008. http://mafalda.cps.unizar.es/dopazo/sites/default/files/pdf/Refereed_Journals_CD/72RAI.Publicacion.Discurso.pdf

[37] L. Almonacid-Jiménez, J. Vallejo-Rodríguez, R. Agudelo-Valencia, J. Hernández-Fernández, Ó. Ortiz-Medina, and D. Ovalle-González, "Evaluación de la hidrólisis enzimática de wet white asistida con ultrasonido para obtener colágeno hidrolizado," Revista Facultad de Ingenieria., vol. 28 (52), 59-75, Jul. 2019. https://doi.org/10.19053/01211129.v28.n52.2019.9654

[38] J.R. Lin, and T. F. Yen, "An upgrading process through cavitation and surfactant," Energy Fuels, vol. 7 (1), pp. 111-118, Jan. 1993. http://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1021/ef00037a018

[39] A. I. Nesterenko, and Y. S. Berlizov, "The possibility of cracking hydrocarbons with cavitation. A quantitative energy assessment," Chemistry Technology of Fuels and Oils, vol. 43 (6), pp. 515-518, Nov. 2007. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10553-007-0089-4

[40] A. N. Sawarkar, A. B. Pandit, S. D. Samant, and J. B. Joshi, "Use of ultrasound in petroleum residue upgradation," The Canadian Journal of Chemichal Engineering, vol. 87 (3), pp. 329-342, May. 2009. https://doi.org/10.1002/cjce.20169

[41] F. Cataldo, "Ultrasound-induced cracking and pyrolysis of some aromatic and naphthenic hydrocarbons," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 7 (1), pp. 35-43, Jan. 2000. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1350-4177(99)00019-x

[42] B. Jack, Fundamentos de los ultrasonidos. Madrid: Editorial Alhambra, S.A, 1967.

[43] F. Restrepo, J. Restrepo, and L. Vargas,, Quimica Básica. Medellin: Susaeta Editores, 1978.

[44] K. S. Suslick, J. J. Gawlenowski, P. F. Schubert, and H. H. Wang, "Alkane sonochemistry," The Journal of Physical Chemistry, vol. 87 (13), pp. 2299-2301, Jun. 1983. https://doi.org/10.1021/j100236a013

[45] Z. Yang, C. Zhang, S. Gu, P. Han, and X. Lu, "Upgrading vacuum residuum by combined sonication and treatment with a hydrogen donor," Chesmistry and Technology of Fuels and Oils, vol. 48 (6), pp. 426-435, Jan. 2013. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10553-013-0391-2

[46] M. Fomitchev-Zamilov, "Heavy Crude Oil Upgrading with Hydrodynamic Cavitation," in CIM Canadian Institute Of Mining, Vancouver, Canada, 2014, pp. 21-31.

[47] K. M. Sadeghi M. Sadeghi, and T. F. Yen, "Novel Extraction of Tar Sands by Sonication with the Aid of In Situ Surfactants," Energy Fuels, vol. 4 (5), pp. 604-608, Sep. 1990. http://doi.org/10.1021/ef00023a034

[48] A. Chakma, and F. Berruti, "The Effects of Ultrasonic Treatment on the Viscosity of Athabasca Bitumen and Bitumen-solvent Mixtures," Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology, vol. 32 (5), pp. 48-51, May 1993. https://doi.org/10.2118/93-05-04

[49] R. Gopinath, A. K. Dalai, and J. Adjaye, "Effects of ultrasound treatment on the upgradation of heavy gas oil," Energy and Fuels, vol. 20 (1), pp. 271-277, Nov. 2006. http://doi.org/10.1021/ef050231x

[50] P. Kaushik, A. Kumar, T. Bhaskar, Y. K. Sharma, D. Tandon, and H. B. Goyal, "Ultrasound cavitation technique for up-gradation of vacuum residue," Fuel Processing Technology, vol. 93 (1), pp. 73-77, Jan. 2012. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fuproc.2011.09.005

[51] S. M. Mousavi, A. Ramazani, I. Najafi, and S. M. Davachi, "Effect of ultrasonic irradiation on rheological properties of asphaltenic crude oils," Petroleum Science, vol. 9 (1), pp. 82-88, Mar. 2012. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12182-012-0186-9

[52] D. Xu, J. Deng, C. Li, L. Bai, B. Ding, and J. Luo, "Research on viscosity reduction of oil in water for ultra heavy crude oil by using of ultrasonic wave," in 21st International Congress on Sound and Vibration, Beijin, China, 2014, pp.152-158.

[53] M. Mullakaev, G. Volkova, and O. Gradov, "Effect of ultrasound on the viscosity-temperature properties of crude oils of various compositions," Theoretical Foundations of Chemical Engineering, vol. 49 (3), pp. 287-296, Mar. 2015. http://doi.org/10.1134/s0040579515030094

[54] M. Salehzadeh, A. Akherati, F. Ameli, and B. Dabir, "Experimental study of ultrasonic radiation on growth kinetic of asphaltene aggregation and deposition," The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, vol. 94 (11), pp. 2202-2209, Nov. 2016. http://doi.org/10.1002/cjce.22593

[55] M. Askarian, A. Vatani, and M. Edalat, "Heavy oil upgrading in a hydrodynamic cavitation system: CFD modelling, effect of the presence of hydrogen donor and metal nanoparticles," The Canadian Journal of Chemical Engineering, vol. 95 (4), pp. 670-679, Apr. 2017. https://doi.org/10.1002/cjce.22709

[56] B. Avvaru, N. Venkateswaran, P. Uppara, S. B. Iyengar, and S. S. Katti, "Current knowledge and potential applications of cavitation technologies for the petroleum industry," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 42, pp. 493-507, Apr, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultsonch.2017.12.010

[57] F. Aliev, I. Mukhamatdinov, and A. Kemalov, "The influences of ultrasound waves on rheological and physico-chemical properties of extra heavy oil from Ashalcha field," in International Multidisciplinary Scientific GeoConference Surveying Geology and Mining Ecology Management, SGEM, Albena, Bulgaria, 2017, pp. 941-948. https://doi.org/10.5593/sgem2017/14/s06.118

[58] D. Montes, F. B. Cortés, and C. A. Franco, "Reduction of heavy oil viscosity through ultrasound cavitation assisted by NiO nanocrystals-functionalized SiO2 nanoparticles," Revista DYNA, vol. 85 (207), pp. 153-160, Dec. 2018. https://doi.org/10.15446/dyna.v85n207.71804

[59] A. N. Sawarkar, "Cavitation induced upgrading of heavy oil and bottom-of-the-barrel: A review," Ultrasonics Sonochemistry, vol. 58, pp. 1-13, Nov. 2019. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ultsonch.2019.104690

[60] J. Cui, Z. Zhang, X. Liu, L. Liu, and J. Peng, "Studies on viscosity reduction and structural change of crude oil treated with acoustic cavitation," FUEL, vol. 263, pp. 1-6 Mar, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fuel.2019.116638

[61] D. Austin, Method to Upgrade Hydrocarbon Mixtures, U.S. Patent 2003001979A1, Jan. 2003.

[62] Z. Yang, C.Zhang,S. Gu, P. Han, and X. Lu, "Upgrading vacuum residuum by combined sonication and treatment with a hydrogen donor," Chemistry and Technology of Fuels and Oils, vol. 48, pp. 426-435, Jan. 2013. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10553-013-0391-2

[63] D. Olaya, L. Quintana, and C. Chávez, "Sonochemistry: The future of the profitable heavy crude oil operations," in Conference and Exhibition Heavy Oil Latin America, Bogotá D. C., Colombia, 2015.


Download data is not yet available.

Most read articles by the same author(s)