Review Article

Applied Petrochemical Research

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 3-19

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Desulfurization of heavy oil

  • Rashad JavadliAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of AlbertaConocoPhillips Canada Email author 
  • , Arno de KlerkAffiliated withDepartment of Chemical and Materials Engineering, University of Alberta


Strategies for heavy oil desulfurization were evaluated by reviewing desulfurization literature and critically assessing the viability of the various methods for heavy oil. The desulfurization methods including variations thereon that are discussed include hydrodesulfurization, extractive desulfurization, oxidative desulfurization, biodesulfurization and desulfurization through alkylation, chlorinolysis, and by using supercritical water. Few of these methods are viable and/or efficient for the desulfurization of heavy oil. This is mainly due to the properties of the heavy oil, such as high sulfur content, high viscosity, high boiling point, and refractory nature of the sulfur compounds. The approach with the best chance of leading to a breakthrough in desulfurization of heavy oil is autoxidation followed by thermal decomposition of the oxidized heavy oil. There is also scope for synergistically employing autoxidation in combination with biodesulfurization and hydrodesulfurization.


Desulfurization Heavy oil Bitumen Hydrodesulfurization (HDS) Oxidative desulfurization (ODS) Biodesulfurization (BDS) Autoxidation