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Measuring diffusion coefficients of gaseous propane in heavy oil at elevated temperatures

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Molecular diffusion is an important phenomenon for solvent transport during vapor extraction and hot solvent injection into heavy oil reservoirs. Therefore, determining solvent diffusion into heavy oil is important for predicting oil recovery. We conduct soaking tests at different temperatures ranging from 80 to 130 °C to estimate diffusion coefficient of propane (C3H8) into heavy oil samples taken from Clearwater Formation in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin. The tests are conducted at the maximum initial pressure of 1900 kPa to keep C3 in vapor phase within the tests’ temperature range. Pressure decline during the soaking process is analyzed to estimate diffusion coefficients and solubility of propane in the oil at equilibrium conditions. The final viscosity of the mixture is also calculated by using the available correlations. The results show that diffusion of propane in heavy oil undergoes three different stages: early region, transition region, and late-time region. The maximum diffusion coefficient is observed at the end of transition region. Solubility of C3 in the oil increases with decreasing temperature. The results also reveal that during the three regions, solubility and diffusion coefficients of C3 into the oil strongly depend on temperature.

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C :

Concentration (mol cm−3)

D :

Diffusion coefficient (m2 s−1)


Expansion factor

M :

Slope of line intercept in graphical method (m2 s−2)


Molecular weight

\(N_{\text{A}}\) :

Avogadro’s number

n gi :

Number of moles of gas at initial pressures, mol

n gf :

Number of moles of gas at equilibrium pressures, mol


Pressure of cell at time t (kPa)


Equilibrium pressure (kPa)

R :

Universal gas constant (kPa Cm3 mol−1 K−1)

x i :

Mole fraction of the components given by Eq. 9

t :

Time (s)

T :

Temperature (°C)

V :

Volume (cm3)


Mass (kg)

\(Z_{\text{g}}\) :

Gas compressibility factor

z o :

Initial height of oil–gas interface (cm)

µ :

Viscosity (cP)

\(\eta_{\text{a}}\) :

Kinematic viscosity (cm2 s−1)

\(\rho\) :

Density (kg m−3)


American Petroleum Institute


Cold heavy oil production with sand


Cyclic steam simulation




Dynamic pendant drop volume analysis


Expanding solvent SAGD


Nuclear magnetic resonance


Pressure decay


Pressure decay technique


Steam-assisted gravity drainage


Toe to heel air injection


Vapor assisted petroleum extraction


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We are grateful to Future Energy Systems Program (FES T07-P05) for financial assistance and Cenovus Energy Inc. for supporting this research and proving heavy oil samples. We also thank Mr. Jarett Dragani and Mr. Xin Zhang from Cenovus Energy for their helpful technical comments and Dr. Mahmood Reza Yassin for his guidance and assistance in conducting the experiments.

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Correspondence to Hassan Dehghanpour.

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Athar, K., Doranehgard, M.H., Eghbali, S. et al. Measuring diffusion coefficients of gaseous propane in heavy oil at elevated temperatures. J Therm Anal Calorim 139, 2633–2645 (2020).

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