Waxy Crude Workshop Addresses Challenges and Opportunities for Utah

Industry experts and academic leaders will soon come together to discuss challenges and opportunities in Utah’s waxy crude industry.

The fifth annual Waxy Crude Workshop, led by the USTAR Eastern Utah Technology Outreach team, will be held on April 10, from 9 a.m. until noon at the Uintah Basin Applied Technology College (ATC). 

The workshop, held in conjunction with the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM)’s quarterly meeting in Vernal, will highlight ongoing efforts to meet the challenges associated with waxy crude production. The workshop began five years ago as an effort by USTAR to raise awareness of the challenges associated with transportation of waxy crude oils. 

Since then, it has evolved from raising awareness to addressing how to solve transportation challenges.  Ryan Streams, Energy Research Triangle analyst, says that previous workshops have focused on raising awareness about waxy crude transportation challenges while this year will focus on solutions to alleviate these challenges. Participants of the workshop range from upstream oil and gas producers, midstream (transportation operators), downstream (refiners), as well as state and federal regulators and other interested parties. 

“For this year’s workshop, we have assembled an agenda that includes representatives from industry who have come forward with proposed solutions,” said Streams. “These include several heated pipeline options, rail loading options and other processes designed to change the paraffinic structure of the oils themselves.”


Waxy crude oils are hydrocarbon resources found throughout Utah’s Uinta Basin. Crude oil is composed of hundreds to thousands of different compounds, and waxy crude oils are no different. However, Streams says that what makes waxy crude oil different and challenging to transport is its highly paraffinic nature, or ability to congeal together, creating a solid form instead of liquid.


“As these crude oils cool, they form a crystalline wax structure that has the consistency of a candle or shoe polish,” said Streams. “This typically happens at 105-110 degrees Fahrenheit, which makes transportation problematic. If waxy crude oil cools to 55F in a pipeline, it will essentially turn the pipeline into a candle. To avoid this, the oil must be kept hot enough to prevent solidification. This makes transportation of these types of oils very difficult from a logistical standpoint.”


Discussion will include the waxy crude characterization study led by Rich Roehner, Ph.D. Streams says Roehner’s study is designed to provide a detailed analysis of the properties of waxy crude oils. 

“Many people are interested in working to solve these transportation constraints; however, there is a lack of reliable data available for people to use to develop engineered solutions,” said Streams. “This study will provide the necessary data to make decisions.”

Additionally, representatives from the University of Utah (U of U) and USTAR East will present new research from a joint industry study on the transportability and refine-ability characteristics of waxy crude, which provides cost-shared research to interested industry partners, and a venue for evaluating potential transportation solutions. 

“The joint industry study has been an exciting effort to bring everyone to the table and focus on mitigating Uinta Basin transportation constraints in a focused, collaborative way,” said Streams. “This is an exciting time for the Uinta Basin and Utah. USTAR is proud to be a part of the effort to produce and transport this resource in a cleaner, safer and more efficient process.”

Other sponsors include the Utah Office of Energy Development, Utah State University, the U of U, Uinta Basin Applied Technology College, the Utah Energy Research Triangle and the Utah Department of Natural Resources. 

For more information about the waxy crude workshop, contact Ryan Streams at [email protected], or 435-503-5392.