Institute for Oil Sands Innovation (IOSI)

Synthesis of Model Compounds for Bitumen Vacuum Residues and Characterization of Molecular Aggregation

The efforts of COSI to develop new technology for oil sands extraction and upgrading would be significantly enhanced by an improved molecular-level description of the bitumen and by the availability of model compounds and mixtures to directly test hypotheses. Research suggests that alkyl-tethered polyaromatic compounds make up the bulk of the vacuum residue material, but actual compounds with representative structures and functionality are not available. We propose to synthesize a limited toolbox of compounds to fulfill three major goals:

  1. To understand the physical properties and reactivity of alkyl-bridged aromatic species based on studies of well-characterized representative compounds. 
  2. To provide model compounds to other COSI projects to enable testing of hypotheses with regards to physical and chemical properties using well-defined compounds that individually represent components of bitumen chemical composition.
  3. To provide a defined set of polymolecular mixtures that reasonably model the compositional diversity, functionality, complex aggregation behaviour and reactivity of the heaviest bitumen fractions with respect to extraction and upgrading processes. 

The development of synthetic compounds and polymolecular assemblies that accurately model the heaviest bitumen fractions is unprecedented and provides the ‘enabling science’ necessary to support unique approaches to novel oil sands technologies.

Principal Investigator: Rik Tykwinski
Co-Principal Investigators: Jeff Stryker, Murray Gray

Project Number: COSI 2008-03
Close Date: 31 March 2014