Measurement and Testing

  • Why Does Oil Quality Testing Matter?

Why Does Oil Quality Testing Matter?

Apr 08 2021

Like any industry, quality testing is a top priority in the oil sector. So why does oil quality testing matter? Read on to find out more about the importance of oil quality testing, what characteristics are considered and some of the techniques used to analyse crude.

Crude oil assays

Almost all buyers carry out crude oil assays before purchasing oil. These in-depth evaluations take place in purpose-built laboratories and map the unique chemical and molecular characteristics of the oil. Samples can be drawn from a variety of sources, including cargo ships, pipelines, refineries, reservoirs and storage tanks. Density and sulphur content are two key factors considered when carrying out crude oil assays. Both have a significant impact on the price of the oil and how it can be used.

Below we look at some of the key reasons why oil quality testing matters:

Determining commercial value

Crude oil assays play an important role in determining the commercial value of oil. Tests offer a precise overview of density (API gravity), which specifies how light or heavy a crude oil is compared to H2O. Grades with API gravity of more than 31 are considered “light” while grades with API gravity below 22 are considered “heavy”. Light grades are generally more expensive than heavy grades as a higher percentage of hydrocarbons can be converted into valuable products such as fuel.

Tapis crude produced in Malaysia is one of the most expensive grades in the world, coveted for its light and sweet properties. It has an API gravity of 42.7 degrees and a low sulphur content of just 0.04%.

Optimising feedstock choices

Oil quality testing allows refiners to optimise their feedstock choices and purchase the best crude for their machinery. This maximises efficiency, increases output and boosts profits. For example, while Eastern Canada extracts a huge amount of heavy crude oil from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta it has very few refineries that can process grades with such low API gravity. Much of the oil is transported down to the United States, which has refineries with the capacity to process such heavy oil.  

Safeguarding equipment

Oil quality testing not only helps to determine price and optimise feedstock choices, but it also safeguards expensive equipment. Tests allow buyers to analyse the content of elements such as amines, sediment, chlorides and mercury, which can all damage machinery.  

Meeting industry standards

The oil industry is subject to strict industry standards and testing ensures producers adhere to these regulations.

As well as regulating oil quality it’s also critical to fine-tune the characteristics of greases and lubricants used in mechanical operations. Find out more about the techniques used to do this in ‘Development of Antiwear and Extreme Pressure Additives for Lubricants and Greases.’


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