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Shell Teams with WRI to Boost Processing Efficiencies

May 3, 2012 — Shell International Exploration and Production Inc., and Western Research Institute (WRI) have entered into a three-year, $1.12 million applied research and development program to advance WRI technologies for characterizing asphaltene components in heavy oil.

"Asphaltenes have been called the ‘cholesterol of heavy oil,'" says John Schabron, WRI chief scientific adviser. "They can cause deposits and fouling during production, pipeline transport and refinery processing."

He says WRI has patented the new Asphaltene Determinator, an automated technique that rapidly identifies and separates the asphaltenic components of oil into sub-fractions to improve heavy oil properties and market value.

The University of Wyoming Research Corp., doing business as WRI, is a nonprofit research and technology development organization that works with commercial, government and university research partners to develop energy technologies such as clean coal, valued-added coal conversion, power plant emissions control, hydrogen and heavy oil technologies, and new methods to characterize and extend the life of asphalt highway materials. 

"We are pleased and proud to embark on this important work with a global industry leader like Shell," says WRI Vice President for Transportation Technology Jean-Pascal Planche. "This is a research success story that started in the laboratory and is moving into commercial use."

WRI's technologies provide insights that can help improve production and processing efficiencies, which in turn can maximize the output of marketable petroleum product. 

"This should help our partner, Shell, meet some of its long-term strategic goals," Planche says.

Shell is a worldwide provider of innovative energy technologies, catalysts, research and development expertise, and business and operational consulting services to the oil and gas, petrochemical production, and other processing industries.

For more information, contact Schabron at or phone (307) 721-2445.

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