30 April 2015

Powerful software reveals crude oil's secrets

A powerful new software package that interprets highly complex data for scientists studying crude oil is now available to researchers worldwide.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Researchers at the Future Fuels Institute, a spinoff of the MagLab's Ion Cyclotron Resonance Facility, have developed a highly sophisticated software program that can analyze the quality of petroleum in mere minutes, allowing petroleum companies and governments better insight into how to best use crude oil or, in hazardous situations, clean it up.

Called PetroOrg, the program helps scientists and oil companies understand the chemical makeup of oil samples. With tens of thousands of different kinds of molecules in a single drop, petroleum is the most chemically complex substance on the planet.

PetroOrg logo

Scientists at the MagLab and elsewhere use powerful magnets and machines called mass spectrometers to examine oil samples, essentially weighing every single molecule. The new software analyzes the information gleaned by these instruments and spits out results and visualizations of the data.

Yuri Corilo, developer and principal investigator of the software, is a researcher with the MagLab and with Florida State University, home to the Future Fuels Institute (FFI). “It will point you to the differences in the data — or petroleum — and what you will need to look at to make decisions about how to best use the oil,” said Corilo of the new software.

For example, analysis provided by the new software might tell a company how well a certain type of crude oil would perform in a refinery and whether it should be turned into diesel, jet fuel or gasoline.

Future Fuels Institute logo

“Companies need to know this information to intelligently run their refineries,” FFI Director Ryan Rodgers said.

The software, which has been available for free to scientists using the MagLab’s ICR Facility, is now also available to oil companies and other outside researchers, many of whom have already purchased the powerful product. Since being exclusively licensed to Omics LLC earlier this year, PetroOrg has already been sold to numerous oil companies and is used by one of the largest mass spectrometry companies in the world.

Oil companies are not the only ones who can benefit from PetroOrg software. It can also analyze biofuels and help governments deal with hazardous environmental issues, as demonstrated in a recent study by Corilo where the software was critical in identifying the source of a major oil spill.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and FFI.

Press release courtesy of Florida State University.

The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory is the world’s largest and highest-powered magnet facility. Located at Florida State University, the University of Florida and Los Alamos National Laboratory, the interdisciplinary National MagLab hosts scientists from around the world to perform basic research in high magnetic fields, advancing our understanding of materials, energy and life. The lab is funded by the National Science Foundation (DMR-1157490) and the state of Florida. For more information, visit us online at nationalmaglab.org or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest at NationalMagLab.