Head of Center of Excellence

Prof. Abbasali Khodadadi

College of Engineering / School of Chemical Engineering




Heavy Oil and Residue Upgrading Center of Excellence (HRU-CE):


 HRU-CE focuses on the development of processes and catalysts for upgrading of heavy oil and residues. After an introduction, the core scientific committee faculty members, and main facilities including upgrading processes setups, feed and products analysis equipment, catalyst preparation accessories and catalyst characterization instruments are explained.

The main objectives of HRU-CE are:

  • Development of upgrading processes technologies up to pilot scale. The processes include coking, hydrotreating (HT), fluid catalytic cracking (RFCC), hydrocracking and other novel processes e.g., ultrasonic assisted cracking and nano-catalytic processes
  • Special catalysts development for the upgrading processes such as RFCC, HT, hydrocracking and novel processes
  • Establishment of Heavy Oil and Residue Upgrading Institute



 A significant portion of the oil fed to refineries ends up in vacuum bottoms, depending on the feed oil heaviness. Up to 25% of light feeds, depending on the residue upgrading processes in the refineries, can result in residues. More than 50% of Iranian oil reservoirs are heavy oil with API in the range of 10-20, which produce even more residues. Residues have high boiling points, viscosities, C/H ratios, asphaltenes and polluting heteroatoms including metals, sulfur and nitrogen. Residue is blended with a gas oil to form fuel oil as the main product, which contains high concentrations of same pollutants as the residue. Fuel oils are used in powers plants and ships. IMO 2020 has limited the sulfur content of the fuel oil to less than 0.5 wt%.

Therefore, it is necessary to upgrade the residue and fuel oil by the following industrial processes:

  • Hydrotreating including hydro-demetallization/desulfurization/denitrogenation or other processes such as oxidative desulfurization

Cracking of residue to value-added lighter product by:

  • Coking, e.g. delayed coking, which may also produce high value anodic or needle coke
  • Residue fluid catalytic cracking (RFCC) in a complex re-circulating process with continuous regeneration of the catalyst.
  • Hydrocracking at high temperature and hydrogen pressures in fixed, ebullated or slurry reactors

Most of the heavy oil and residue upgrading processes and their reactors and complicated and operate under harsh conditions and also require robust catalysts, which can tolerate high concentration of poisonous heteroatoms and metals.

Many other novel processes such as nano-catalytic one, ultrasonic assisted cracking, supercritical reactors, and etc. are investigated in pilot plant scales.        


A significant number of faculties and their PhD and MSc students mainly from Dept. of Chemical Eng., Colleges of Eng. At University of Tehran collaborate with HRU-CE. The faculties of the core scientific committee and their expertise are as follows:





  1. Bahramian

 Thermodynamics and Surface Phenomena


  1. Khodadadi

 Catalysis and Reaction Engineering and Nanostructured Materials


  1. Rostami

 Petroleum Engineering - Reservoirs


  1. Rashidi

 Nanostructured Catalysis


S. Riahi

 Chemistry of Upgrading Processes


R. Sotoude

 Process Design and Simulation


Sh. Fatemi

 Process Design and Adsorbents


N. Mostoufi

 Process Design and Simulation


M. A. Mousavian

 Thermodynamics and Reactor Design




The facilities of HRU-CE include bench- and pilot-scale upgrading processes setups, catalyst preparation accessories, Feed and products analysis instruments and catalysts characterization equipment.

Setups include: Delayed cocking pilot plant, bench-scale setups for hydro/oxidative-desulfurization, fluid catalytic cracking, supercritical reactors, ultrasonic reactors for upgrading residues and heavy oils.

Catalyst Preparation Accessories: Autoclaves, ovens, tubular and muffle furnaces, centrifuges, ultrasonic probes and bathes, microwave ovens, freeze drier, and etc.

Feed and Products Analysis Facilities: Saturates, Aromatics, Resins and Asphaltenes (SARA) analysis, Simulated distillation (SimDis), Refinery Gas Analysis (RGA), Micro Carbon Residue (MCR) analysis equipment, Gas Chromatographs (GCs), GC-Mass-Spectroscopy (GC-MS), FTIR, UV-Vis and etc.

Catalyst Characterization Instruments: High Resolution Transmission Microscope (HRTEM), Field-effect Scanning Electron Microscope (FESEM), Chemisorption, Temperature Programmed Desorption/Reduction (TPD/R), Dynamic Light Scattering (DLS), BET Surface Area Measurement, DRIFTS, TGA/DSC, Raman …