This paper investigates the economic viability of post-production partial upgrading, specifically visbreaking, of heavy oil. We evaluate the potential technical and economic advantages and disadvantages of using visbreaking as a tool for reducing diluent use. Additionally, we identify the cost and energy drivers affecting the economic performance of this partial upgrading operation through a probabilistic Net Present Value (NPV) analysis. We have created a screening tool that can be used for a preliminary evaluation of visbreaking for transportation of heavy-oil solvent systems. Partial upgrading at the wellsite can potentially reduce operational costs to producers and transportation companies. A comparative economic study offered by this test can be used to make decisions on whether to proceed to a more detailed investigation of the process. Importantly, we have created a first-pass standardization tool for the screening of heavy oils for partial upgrading. Visbreaking can prove to be an economically favorable addition or, perhaps, even an alternative to blending heavy oil prior to pipeline transportation. In fact, operational costs of visbreaking are offset by the reduced cost of diluent and capital expenditures that can be mitigated within a reasonable time frame. Finally, we conclude that the altered fluid properties of a visbroken product require less energy per barrel for transportation, which translates to a more attractive economic scenario for transportation for the two baseline cases presented.


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