The thermal decomposition of asphaltenes is mainly responsible for the formation of coke in petroleum processing. Phenomena
involved are not clearly understood, because of the difficulties to characterize such heavy components. This paper reports
the application of thermal analysis techniques to study the thermal behavior of asphaltenes from Brazilian oil. The approach
involves kinetic studies of the thermal decomposition of asphaltenes under controlled conditions by thermogravimetry (TG),
characterization of volatile fractions by thermogravimetry and differential thermal analysis coupled with gas chromatography/mass
spectrometry (TG-DTA/GC/MS) and by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) in the volatile recovered. The coke formed
was also studied after being decomposed into smaller molecules using selective oxidation.