Measurement and Testing

  • What Happens If Oil Quality Isn't Good Enough?

What Happens If Oil Quality Isn't Good Enough?

Apr 14 2021

When it comes to quality the oil sector is subject to strict regulations. These are designed to protect the best interests of producers, refiners and consumers. So what happens if oil quality isn’t good enough? We take a look at the consequences of oil that doesn’t meet industry standards.

Price is compromised

The main factor affected when oil quality isn’t good enough is price. Most refineries covet relatively light and sweet crude, which refers to oil with low density, high API gravity and low sulphur content. Not only do light and sweet oils require a less intensive refining process, but they also producer higher-value products such as diesel and gasoline.

Most refiners have the capacity to process light and sweet crude which makes these types of grades highly desirable and pushes up the price. In comparison, heavy and sour crude is less valuable as it’s considered low quality. The refining process is complicated and energy intensive, which has a negative impact on price.

Compare bitumen, an extra-heavy oil extracted from the Canadian oil sand to West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a light, sweet and low density oil. The price of bitumen is significantly lower than WTI as it is considered a low-quality product.

Damage to equipment

Before purchasing oil most buyers carry out assays to map the chemical and molecular properties of a product. This offers an overview of what contaminants may be present and if they pose a threat to equipment.

For example, while amines can be useful when treating acidic contaminants, they can also increase salting on distillation units. Similarly, sediment can damage expensive equipment and jeopardise the quality of the finished product, while chlorides can intensify corrosion. Refiners will also test for mercury, which can bond with aluminium alloys and destroy specialised equipment in high concentrations.

Fines and penalties

If producers, refiners and retailers don’t adhere to quality control standards there are significant fines and penalties to consider. Producers can be penalised for selling low-grade crude at high-grade prices, while refiners can be penalised for selling mislabelled products to petrol stations.

Similarly, government organisations regularly check and analyse samples from petrol stations to ensure they’re adhering to national regulations. If petrol stations sell fuel that doesn’t meet regulations, they’re subject to harsh fines and penalties. Examples include petrol stations selling low-octane fuel at high-octane prices. Whether accidental or intentional, this deceives the consumer and petrol stations will be disciplined accordingly.

Choosing the right feedstocks is essential when manufacturing high-quality petroleum products. The advanced techniques used to develop these types of products are explored further in ‘Development of Antiwear and Extreme Pressure Additives for Lubricants and Greases.’

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