Preventing the Clogging of Crude Oil Pipelines

Deterring Aggregation of Asphaltenes

At a Glance

Researchers at Colorado State University have developed methods to identify specific aggregation inhibitors for asphaltenes present in crude oil pipelines.  Asphaltene aggregation is estimated to clog more than 72,000 miles of pipeline in the U.S. alone – creating not only huge economic burden, but also devastating environmental impacts during cleaning or repair.

Methods here include proprietary algorithms to identify appropriate aggregation inhibitors (both natural or synthetic) or combinations thereof.


Asphaltenes are macromolecules common to crude oil known to be responsible for forming deposits in pipelines and other petroleum industry equipment via aggregation. The deposition of these solids can have drastic and negative impact on the oil flow through these pipes. Billions of dollars are spent annually to clean up asphaltene-clogged pipelines and other petroleum industry equipment. There are various methods of cleaning clogged pipelines such as replacing the equipment, pulse pressurizing pipelines and chemical treatments – but none of these methods lead to prevention.


The ability to decrease this asphaltene aggregation can lead to more efficient oil extraction and production processes that will also minimize future asphaltene deposition and subsequently minimize economic and environmental consequences.

Figure 2. A systematics set of model asphaltenes and resins were designed to investigate the molecular features that affect the initial stages of asphaltene precipitation.

The methods developed and patented at CSU can assist in selecting an aggregation inhibitor (natural or synthetic) for a specific asphaltene present in an oil extraction pipeline.


  • Method utilizes natural components of crude oil
  • Decreases potential of pipeline shutdowns due to clogging
  • Increases efficiency of oil pipeline.


  • Oil industry
Last Updated: July 2023

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Mortaza Derakhshani Molayouselfi
Martin McCullagh

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