Heavy crude oil or extra heavy crude oil is oil that is highly viscous, and cannot easily flow to production wells under normal reservoir conditions. It is referred to as “heavy” because its density or specific gravity is higher than that of light crude oil. Heavy crude oil has been defined as any liquid petroleum with API gravity less than 20°.
Physical properties that differ between heavy crude oils and lighter grades include higher viscosity and specific gravity, as well as heavier molecular composition. In 2010, the World Energy Council defined extra heavy oil as crude oil having a gravity of less than 10° and a reservoir viscosity of no more than 10 000 centipoises. When reservoir viscosity measurements are not available, extra-heavy oil is considered by the WEC to have a lower limit of 4° °API.(WEC 2007) (i.e. with density greater than 1000 kg/m3 or, equivalently, a specific gravity greater than 1 and a reservoir viscosity of no more than 10,000 centipoises. Heavy oils and asphalt are dense no aqueous phase liquids .
They have a “low solubility and are with viscosity lower and density higher than water. Heavy crude oil is closely related to natural bitumen from oil sands. Petroleum geologists categorize bitumen from oil sands as ‘extra-heavy oil’ due to its density of less than 10° °API. Bitumen is the heaviest, thickest form of petroleum. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, bitumen is further distinguished as extra-heavy oil with a higher viscosity (i.e., resistance to flow): “Natural bitumen, also called tar sands or oil sands, shares the attributes of heavy oil but is yet more dense and viscous. Natural bitumen is oil having a viscosity greater than 10,000 cP. Natural bitumen (often called tar sands or oil sands) and heavy oil differ from light oils by their high viscosity (resistance to flow) at reservoir temperatures, high density (low API gravity), and significant contents of nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur compounds and heavy-metal contaminants. They resemble the residuum from the refining of light oil. Most heavy oil is found at the margins of geologic basins and is thought to be the residue of formerly light oil that has lost its light-molecular-weight components through degradation by bacteria, water washing, and evaporation. Conventional heavy oil and bitumen differ in the degree by which they have been degraded from the original crude oil by bacteria and erosion.(Meyer & 2003 1) Often, bitumen is more viscous than cold molasses and does not flow at ambient conditions.