Quantification of the Free Radical Content of Oilsands Bitumen Fractions

Joy H. Tannous, Arno De Klerk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


Electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy was employed to perform quantitative analysis of the free radical content of oilsands bitumen, asphaltenes, deasphalted oil, vacuum residue, and vacuum gas oil fractions, as well as thermally converted product fractions. Calibration standards for ESR were compared, and 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl was selected. The heaviest fractions, including asphaltenes, had free radical concentrations in the range 1017-1018 spins/g, whereas lighter fractions such as the lighter gas oil fractions had free radical concentrations in the range 1016-1017 spins/g. It was found that the bulk liquid properties affected the measured free radical concentration even after compensating for effects that could affect the spectroscopy. These differences were not analytical artifacts and could be explained with reference to the literature in terms of the "equilibrium" composition resulting from dimerization and decomposition of free radical pairs. Reported free radical concentrations must consequently be interpreted by considering the nature of the bulk liquid that was analyzed. Practically, the results have implications for thermal conversion of bitumen. It appears that the free radical concentration and availability of reactive free radicals can be independently manipulated through temperature and the bulk liquid properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7083-7093
Number of pages11
JournalEnergy and Fuels
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • Fuel Technology
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology


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