Analytical Instrumentation

  • Why Does the Analysis of Petroleum Products Matter?

Why Does the Analysis of Petroleum Products Matter?

May 20 2021

Extraordinarily complex, crude oils contain almost 600 individual hydrocarbons. Add more than 200 unique sulphur compounds and approximately 40 trace elements into the mix and crude oil analysis becomes incredibly complicated. While assays do require an outlay of time and resources, analysis of petroleum products is a top priority at all stages of the upstream, midstream and downstream production processes.

What are crude oil assays?

Before we dive in, let’s take a moment to define crude oil assays. Carried out in purpose-built laboratories, these detailed analyses reveal the unique chemical and molecular characteristics of a sample. Assays can be carried out at all stages of the extraction, production and resale process, with samples drawn from drilling sites, pipelines, cargo ships, refineries and forecourt tanks.

Want to know more about why analysis of petroleum products matters? Read on as we take a look at some of the key drivers behind crude oil assays.

Establishing commercial value

Price is one of the biggest reasons companies analyse petroleum products, with variations in sulphur content having a big impact on commercial value. Petroleum with sulphur content of less than 0.5% is classed as sweet, while petroleum with higher levels falls into the sour category. Sweet crudes generally demand a higher price, making sulphur assays an important part of the valuation process for producers and refiners.

Choosing the right feedstocks

Different refineries are built to process different types of crude, and analysis plays an important role in helping refiners choose the best feedstocks. For example, many refineries in the United States are optimised for heavy oils like those extracted in Alberta’s Athabasca Oil Sands. Ultimately, selecting the right feedstocks helps refineries maximise efficiency, output and profits.

Maintaining equipment

Fuel analysis methods not only help refiners choose the right feedstocks but also safeguard equipment. Corrosion is a major problem, with elements such as mercury not only damaging equipment but also compromising the efficiency of catalysts and putting the health and safety of personnel at risk.

Adhering to quality control standards

Misleading and deceiving buyers can lead to big fines for oil and gas companies. Elemental analysis helps keep sellers on their toes and protect the best interests of buyers. The term “buyers” can cover anyone from refineries purchasing crude oil from drillers to motorists filling up at the forecourt.

Spotlighting the new Xplorer-V analyser from TE instruments, industry expert Sebastian Sanchez explores the methods used to carry out hydrocarbon assays in ‘Total Sulfur and Total Nitrogen analysis – Horizontal versus Vertical furnace arrangement’.


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