Depth profiling (ICP-MS) study of trace metal 'grains' in solid asphaltenes

Avin E. Pillay, Ghada Bassioni, Sasi Stephen, Fritz E. Kühn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Knowledge of trace metal 'grains' in asphaltenes could play a significant role in enhancing refining and processing of crudes and also in providing useful information on mechanistic and migratory features linked to asphaltenes. These metals originate directly from interaction of oils with source-rock, mineral matter, and formation water and their accumulation in asphaltene matrices could vary from oil well to oil well. Suitable asphaltene samples were subjected to high-performance ICP-MS laser depth profiling (213 nm) to depths of 50 μm at 5 μm intervals. The study was conducted in the absence of standardization and characteristic intensities originating from the metals of interest were measured. Ten metal profiles were investigated (Na, Mg, Al, Mn, Fe, Zn, Sr, Pb, V, and Ni). The experimental results showed non-uniform distribution of trace metals and identified areas where such metals agglomerate. The data suggested that certain chemical and physical conditions within the structure of asphaltenes are favorable for metal 'grain' formation at specific points. The exact mechanism for this behavior is not clear at this stage, and has considerable scope for future studies, including mathematical modeling simulations of asphaltenes. We also found that solid asphaltenes could be a useful forerunner of scale formation.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)1403-1408
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Society for Mass Spectrometry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Asphaltenes
  • ICP-MS
  • Laser ablation
  • Scales
  • Trace metal 'grains'


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