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Pure Appl. Chem., 2009, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 473-494

Polymer science applied to petroleum production

Elizabete F. Lucas, Claudia R. E. Mansur, Luciana Spinelli and Yure G. C. Queirós

Institute of Macromolecules, Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Technology Center, bl. J, Ilha do Fundão, Rio de Janeiro, 21945970, Brazil

Abstract: The science of polymers, more specifically, synthesis, characterization, and physicochemical properties in solutions, has wide application in the petroleum industry, which uses polymers as components of fluids or additives to correct problems that affect oil production and/or increase production costs. Polymers are utilized during all phases, from drilling to treatment of oil and water. Research on the synthesis of polymers and their respective characterization aims to develop new molecules, with controlled structures, for various applications, having one or more objectives, namely: (1) to enhance operating efficiency; (2) to reduce costs; and (3) to elucidate mechanisms of action that can help in the development of new technologies. The evaluation of the physicochemical properties of a polymer in solution in many cases permits establishing useful correlations between its properties and performance in a specific application, besides providing insight into the mechanisms inherent in the production system, as is the case of stabilization of asphaltenes. Our research group has applied the knowledge of polymer science to the petroleum industry, focusing on the following functions: viscosification, inhibition of clay swelling, formation of filter cake, drag reduction, divergence, modification of wax crystals, stabilization of asphaltenes, emulsification, demulsification, and cleaning of solids systems contaminated with petroleum, among others.