With the growing demand for energy and the depletion of conventional crude oil, heavy oil in huge reserve has attracted extensive attention. However, heavy oil cannot be directly refined by existing processes unless they are upgraded due to its complex composition and high concentration of heteroatoms (N, S, Ni, V, etc.
). Of the variety of techniques for heavy oil upgrading, supercritical water (SCW) is gaining popularity because of its excellent ability to convert heavy oil into valued, clean light oil by the suppression of coke formation and the removal of heteroatoms. Based on the current status of this research around the world, heavy oil upgrading in SCW is summarized from three aspects: Transformation of hydrocarbons, suppression of coke, and removal of heteroatoms. In this work, the challenge and future development of the orientation of upgrading heavy oil in SCW are pointed out.
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