Formation of water-in-oil emulsions and application to oil spill modelling

Merv Fingas, Ben Fieldhouse
Journal of Hazardous Materials 2004 February 27, 107 (1): 37-50
Water-in-oil mixtures were grouped into four states or classes: stable, mesostable, unstable, and entrained water. Of these, only stable and mesostable states can be characterized as emulsions. These states were established according to lifetime, visual appearance, complex modulus, and differences in viscosity. Water content at formation was not an important factor. Water-in-oil emulsions made from crude oils have different classes of stability as a result of the asphaltene and resin contents, as well as differences in the viscosity of the starting oil. The different types of water-in-oil classes are readily distinguished simply by appearance, as well as by rheological properties. A review of past modelling efforts to predict emulsion formation showed that these older schemes were based on first-order rate equations that were developed before extensive work on emulsion physics took place. These results do not correspond to either laboratory or field results. The present authors suggest that both the formation and characteristics of emulsions could be predicted using empirical data. If the same oil type as already studied is to be modelled, the laboratory data on the state and properties can be used directly. In this paper, a new numerical modelling scheme is proposed and is based on empirical data and the corresponding physical knowledge of emulsion formation. The density, viscosity, saturate, asphaltene and resin contents are used to compute a class index which yields either an unstable or entrained water-in-oil state or a mesostable or stable emulsion. A prediction scheme is given to estimate the water content and viscosity of the resulting water-in-oil state and the time to formation with input of wave height.

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