Fuel for Thought
Why is Petroleum Refined?
Sep 04 2019 Read 352 Times
The global oil refining industry is one of the biggest money-spinners on the planet, with a new study from Global Market Insights Inc predicting it will exceed US$7 trillion by 2024. The consulting firm cites growing demand for lighter petroleum products, as well as the introduction of new air borne emission regulations, as major factors that will drive industry growth and ramp up demand for oil refining services.
What exactly is the refining process and why is it so important?
When crude oil is extracted from the ground it's unsuitable for commercial use. To be converted into commodities such as gasoline, jet fuel, LPG, naphtha, kerosene, diesel and wax it must be refined. During the refining process, oil undergoes chemical engineering processes in purpose-built facilities, also known as refineries.
Every refinery has its own unique setup and consists of different processing units and auxiliary facilities. The layout will depend on the product the refinery is producing, what type of oil it's receiving, the geographic location and other economic factors. Generally, most refineries maximise production by operating 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Largescale refineries can occupy thousands of acres and churn out more than one million barrels per day.
Separation, conversion and treatment
The refining process involves three key stages: separation, conversion and treatment. Separation sees crude piped through hot furnaces to separate the liquids and vapours into petroleum components, also known as fractions. The lightest fractions, such as liquified gases, rise to the top of the distillation tower. Medium weight liquids like distillates and kerosene stay in the middle, while heavier liquids settle at the bottom.
After the separation process, heat, pressure and catalysts are used to 'crack' the fractions and create products such as gasoline. Finally, the products undergo treatment to maximise performance and ensure the product is suitable for commercial use. This can include increasing octane levels in gasoline.
Growing diesel demand and new eco regulations set to drive refining industry
As demand for oil refining services grows, Global Market Insights Inc predicts an increase in investment toward upgrades, refurbishments and expansion of existing facilities. This will help meet the world's growing appetite for diesel, petrochemical feedstocks and refined fuels that meet the new standards introduced by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
Petrochemicals, including methanol, propylene and ethylene, are one of the most coveted products manufactured during the refining process. If you want to know more about the industry and the next-generation technologies, don't miss 'Multidimensional GC approaches for Petrochemical analysis.'
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