The main objective of this work is the catalyst optimization of Fe₂O₃-, Co₃O₄-, NiO- and/or PdO- (transition element oxides-TEO) functionalized CeO₂ nanoparticles to maximize the conversion of asphaltenes under isothermal conditions at low temperatures (<250 °C) during steam injection processes. Adsorption isotherms and the subsequent steam decomposition process of asphaltenes for evaluating the catalysis were performed through batch adsorption experiments and thermogravimetric analyses coupled to Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), respectively. The adsorption isotherms and the catalytic behavior were described by the solid-liquid equilibrium (SLE) model and isothermal model, respectively. Initially, three pairs of metal oxide combinations at a mass fraction of 1% of loading of CeNi1Pd1, CeCo1Pd1, and CeFe1Pd1 nanoparticles were evaluated based on the adsorption and catalytic activity, showing better results for the CeNi1Pd1 due to the Lewis acidity changes. Posteriorly, a simplex-centroid mixture design of experiments (SCMD) of three components was employed to optimize the metal oxides concentration (Ni and Pd) onto the CeO₂ surface by varying the oxides concentration for mass fractions from 0.0% to 2.0% to maximize the asphaltene conversion at low temperatures. Results showed that by incorporating mono-elemental and bi-elemental oxides onto CeO₂ nanoparticles, both adsorption and isothermal conversion of asphaltenes decrease in the order CeNi1Pd1 > CePd2 > CeNi0.66Pd0.66 > CeNi2 > CePd1 > CeNi1 > CeO₂. It is worth mentioning that bi-elemental nanoparticles reduced the gasification temperature of asphaltenes in a larger degree than mono-elemental nanoparticles at a fixed amount of adsorbed asphaltenes of 0.02 mg·m-2, confirming the synergistic effects between Pd and Fe, Co, and Ni. Further, optimized nanoparticles (CeNi0.89Pd1.1) have the best performance by obtaining 100% asphaltenes conversion in less than 90 min at 220 °C while reducing 80% the activation energy.
Keywords: adsorption; asphaltene; catalytic steam gasification; ceria; nanoparticles; thermal EOR; transition elements.