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Size-Exclusion Chromatography of Asphaltenes: An Experimental Comparison of Commonly-Used Approaches



Shen Dong, Andre Striegel


Asphaltenes, the heaviest and most polar fraction of crude oil, are responsible for the clogging of oil pipelines and of underground reservoir rocks. Asphaltenes are defined as a solubility class (toluene- or benzene-soluble, n-heptane insoluble), and a consensus is still lacking on the molar mass (M) averages, distribution, and range of these materials. Size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) is among the most widely employed methods for characterizing the M averages and distributions of both natural and synthetic polymers and, as such, has seen widespread application in the study of asphaltenes. SEC analysis of asphaltenes presents a number of challenges, however, some inherent to all low-M materials and some unique to these particular analytes. Here, we have experimentally compared several of the most commonly used approaches to SEC of asphaltenes, in hope of both demonstrating the influence of experimental conditions upon the results obtained as well as to determine optimal conditions of analysis. In the end, while the former goal was met, the latter one remains an open challenge in the field.


Dong, S. and Striegel, A. (2013), Size-Exclusion Chromatography of Asphaltenes: An Experimental Comparison of Commonly-Used Approaches, Chromatographia, [online], (Accessed April 16, 2024)
Created May 3, 2013, Updated October 12, 2021