About Asphalt and Petroleum Technology (APT)

WRI’s Asphalt and Petroleum Technology (APT) group is a leader in asphalt, bitumen, petroleum, coal, and hydrocarbon research. The group has several decades of experience leading research projects at the federal and commercial level to characterize, diagnose and predict asphalt and heavy oil properties and performance, and thermal processing of heavy oils.

As APT has evolved over the decades, many new research initiatives were conceived and actualized to address current issues common to the paving, roofing, coal and petroleum industries through confidential commercial contract work, and also through WRI-led collaborative consortia. These initiatives have aimed, to tackle evolving and growing needs and challenges in the asphalt field such as reclaimed asphalt pavement and shingle recycling, polymer and plastics compatibility in asphalt, asphalt binder variability (fingerprinting, diagnosing and amending) related to field performance, refinery processes, additives, and oxidative aging, or in the refining or upstream fields such as heat exchanger fouling, waxes, asphaltene stability, coke formation, bitumen upgrading, asphaltene adsorption, mesophase formation for carbon fibers, and many other areas.

To assist with these tasks, new and unique tools, methods, correlations and software have been developed - unique to APT - specifically to characterize and treat the highly complex heavy ends within petroleum, coal and other hydrocarbons: from waxes to asphaltenes to coke and everything in between. Analyses and techniques developed by APT are now offered to clients around the world and some of these technologies are available for licensing and deployment.

APT uses its knowledge and tools in many projects to help clients solve issues, and develop products and processes. As its raison d’être, APT is always open to new partnerships.

Petroleum Processes and Products

Many phenomenal can occur during the production and refining of oil which can cause disruptions and even costly shutdowns. WRI focuses on issues related to asphaltenes and asphaltenes stability such as precipitation, adsorption and emulsions. These phenomena directly affect refinery operations and can lead to desalter upsets, heat exchanger fouling or fouling within the fired furnaces. These interplays along with the crude oil chemistry, water chemistry, dispersed solids and pyrolysis history are considered when assessing the fouling potential of crude oils and heavy oils. Using traditional knowledge and assays combined with new WRI characterization techniques the non-pyrolyitic and pyrolytic fouling tendencies of crude oils can be predicted and mitigated.

Besides asphaltene related issues, several crude oils also suffer problems with regards to production and transportation due to wax crystallization. WRI has also developed separation methods to uniquely separate waxes into different solubility classes of waxes, the Waxphaltene Determinator, which diagnoses crude oils which are most prone to form waxy fouling deposits. This technology is also used to understand interaction between different wax inhibitors and pour point depressants to mitigate wax problems. By understanding the chemistry of the waxes with other traditional method, like high temperature GCMS and DSC, it is possible to match the best performing additives with the most problematic crudes.

Thermally cracking, or pyrolysis, of chemical bonds within petroleum, coal and biomass is convenient route to produce additional liquids for use in chemicals and fuels, and/or to produce coke for fuel or the refining of iron ore to produce steel. The sources and conditions for this thermal cracking is controlled by various processes to tune the yields and properties of the products. Eventually thermal cracking will yield a highly aromatic, polymerized and carbonaceous material generally referred to as coke. Many different types of coke can be made to serve different industry needs, each with a different set of requirements.

Technology and Product Development

Knowing your materials helps you know how they will perform over time. WRI works to identify significant variables that affect the life-cycle performance of asphalts and pavement systems. From our research on the fundamental properties of asphalts, aggregates, additives and interactions, we develop practical instruments and predictive tests used by government and industry.

We also put our know-how to work for asphalt, additives and roofing suppliers, trade associations and transportation agencies—anyone with a need for greater insight into asphalts and other transportation materials. We perform non-routine chemical and physical analyses of asphalt materials and conduct forensic and customized research for private and public clients.

Services and Support

You can put the most powerful tools of one of the world’s leading asphalt research laboratories to work for you. Whatever you call it—asphalt, bitumen, residuum or pitch—we can help you gain insight into its performance and use it more effectively. We can help you discover how asphalts interact with additives, modifiers, aggregates and other materials.

If you have a problem with an asphalt, additive or asphalt–aggregate combination or an unexplained pavement failure or production issue, we can help identify the cause. We perform non-routine chemical and physical analyses of asphalt materials and specialized research.

We can help you with:

From micro scale to field scale, whatever your asphalt or other material need, WRI can help. For larger, multi-faceted projects, WRI can bring in partners with additional expertise. All work is conducted on a confidential and proprietary basis, as required.

Petersen Asphalt Research Conference (PARC)

PARC brings together top researchers, highway officials, producers and others who are working to advance the specification and performance of petroleum asphalts. For over 50 years, research presented and discussed at the Petersen Asphalt Research Conference has led to safer, longer-lasting and more cost-effective highways throughout the world

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