Chemistry

Industrial Separation of a Mixture

1.2.4. Identify data sources, gather, process and analyse information from secondary sources to identify the industrial separation processes used on a mixture obtained from the biosphere, lithosphere, hydrosphere or atmosphere. Identify the sphere in which the mixture is found. The term ‘crude oil’ refers to the unrefined oil extracted directly from the ground, derived from the remains of marine organisms millions of years ago. Crude oil consists of many different types of hydrocarbons ranging from C1 to C50 and other substances – the composition varies according to the source. Crude oil (also known as Petroleum) is generally situated in the Lithosphere. Although Crude Oil is an organic substance composed predominately of carbon, it is found within rock formations of the earth. The location of the mixture in terms of spheres is therefore the lithosphere instead of the biosphere. In order to obtain such valuable substances, pipes must be drilled through the rock forms.
Approximate percentage composition of Crude Oil

Detail the process of separation. A flow chart may be useful. Diagrams may also be useful. Since crude oil is a mixture, certain methods can be applied to mechanically or physically separate the substance into simpler products for industrial use –fractional distillation. The benefit of fractional distillation is that it has the ability to separate crude oil into various constituents even if they have similar boiling points with small differences in them. To make maximum usage of crude oil, the fractionating towers (up to 40m high) contain different levels of trays, all with their own temperatures at each level to separate the crude oil into a variety of components. Crude oil is inserted into the base of the tower and slowly rises. The trays contain small holes that allow the hot vapours (which automatically attempt to rise) pass through the levels. However when the vapours reach the tray in which the temperature is that of their boiling point, they will begin to condensate back to liquid form. The trays then drain the liquid ready for further purification and storage. The components are then separated into specific fractions containing hydrocarbons with similar boiling points.

Left: A typical fractionating column/tower Right: An oil refinery – which contains many fractionating columns/towers

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David Ngo

Chemistry

Industrial Separation of a Mixture

1. Crude oil which has been heated to high temperatures of about 400oC in a heater or vaporiser is fed into the base of the fractionating tower which is filled with many trays. At this point, a large percentage of the crude oil turns into vapour. 2. The vapour elevates in the column though various trays. The horizontal trays have many bubble caps which ultimately facilitates the collection of liquids that are formed as a result of condensation. As vapour rises through the fractionating column, the vapour forces through the bubble caps and “bubbles” through a condensed liquid. The bottom of the tower has high temperatures as opposed to the top which has low temperatures. 3. When certain vapours reach a tray or fraction in the column which contains a temperature similar to the boiling point of the substance in the vapour, the vapour condensates into a liquid. Note: The substances with lower BPs will condense at a higher fraction in the column whereas substances with higher BPs will condense lower in the column. 4. The fractionating tower is designed so that when vapours condensate, the liquid is drawn away from the trays and the process of fractional distillation. 5. The accumulated liquid substances may pass to condensers, which cool them further, and then go to storage tanks, or they may go to other areas for further chemical processing – i.e. treating, purification, blending.

A schematic diagram of a common fractional distillation taking its place in a cooling tower used for separating crude oil. < 30oC Lower Temperatures

> 350oC Higher Temperatures

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David Ngo

Chemistry

Industrial Separation of a Mixture

Identify the properties of the mixture used in its separation. Refineries are able to separate crude oil based on the known physical properties of the different hydrocarbons which are found in the mixture. One of the primary properties is the volatility levels (tendency to vaporise) or boiling points in short. In addition, due to weak intermolecular forces involved, the boiling points depend on the molecular size and shape and proportional to molecular weight - meaning that the separation is not only in order of increasing boiling points, but also roughly in increasing molecular weight or increasing carbon atom count per molecule. This feature can be taken advantage of through a separating process called fractional distillation, which takes the form of large cooling, fractionating towers. Physical State Carbon atom per molecule Gases C1-C4 Liquids C5-C50 Solids >C51

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David Ngo

Chemistry

Industrial Separation of a Mixture

Identify the products of separation AND describe their uses. Fractional distillation results in a variety of different products, all with their own unique properties and uses. The products in greatest demand include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), petrol, kerosene, jet fuel, diesel, fuel oils, lubricating oils and asphalt. The distillation process also results in the production of a very heavy residual, extracted from the base of the column for further processing. The chemical properties of these products reflect a pattern when condensation levels are compared:   The “lighter” substances (such as LPG, kerosene, jet fuel and petroleum) will tend to condensate/boil at lower temperatures. The “heavier” substances (such as lubricating oil and asphalt) will usually condensate/boil at much higher temperatures. % of Crude Oil  1-2    15 - 30  Motor fuel Uses Fuel for heating and cooking (Liquefied Petroleum Gas or LPG) Manufacture of plastics and petrol additives Naphtha is used for the manufacture of petrochemicals and petrol additives Industrial solvents

Products of Crude Oil Petroleum Gas Composition: (C1-C4) BP: <30oC Petroleum Ether (Naphtha/Ligroin) Composition: (C5-C7) BP: 60oC - 100 oC Gasoline (Petrol) Composition: (C5-C12) BP: 30oC - 200 oC Kerosene Composition: (C11-C16) BP: 180oC - 275 oC Gas Oil/Diesel Distillate Composition: (C15-C20) BP: 250oC - 350 oC

10 - 15

15 - 20

Lubricating Oil Composition: (C20-C30) BP: >350 oC Heavy Gas/Fuel Oil Composition: (C30-C40) BP: >350 oC Paraffin Waxes Composition: (C40-C50) BP: >350 oC Residuals/Bitumen Composition: (Above C50) BP: >350 oC

 Fuel for jet engines and tractors  Starting material for the production of other organic compounds through “Cracking” *  Diesel fuel  Heating fuel oil  Fuel for industrial boilers  Starting material for the production of other organic compounds through “Cracking” *  Motor oil, grease and other lubricants  Starting material for the production of other organic compounds through “Cracking” *  Industrial fuel  Fuel for ships and power stations        Candles Wax paper Polishing Coke Road bitumen (asphalt) Roofing tar Various waxes

40 - 50

*Cracking is the process in which large hydrocarbons (C11-C20) are heated in the presence of a catalyst (such as Aluminium and Silicon) in order to be broken down into smaller molecules (C4-C12)

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David Ngo

Chemistry

Industrial Separation of a Mixture

Discuss issues associated with wastes from the processes used to separate the mixture into its useful components. Crude oil has forever been one of the most valuable resource and commodity internationally. The constituents derived as a result of industrial separation of the mixture have powered and enhanced essential parts of our life – i.e. transport, cooking. However, the question regarding this expanding field is whether it is sustainable, safe and environmentally-friendly. The efficiency of industrial distillation in respect to the environment has been lacklustre – harmful chemicals dispersed into the atmosphere causing air and water pollution is just one issue. Is industrial distillation still viable? In industries such as oil refineries, there is usually the combustion of fuels which take place. As a result of complete combustion of fuels (which contain hydrocarbons) water vapour and carbon dioxide (CO2) is formed – CO2 notoriously known for being partly responsible for climate change. In addition, if not enough oxygen is present, incomplete combustion takes place resulting in the formation of water vapour, carbon monoxide (CO) and soot/smoke which is potentially just as dangerous. The release of these gases into the atmosphere not only contributes to global warming, which is responsible for changing the world’s climate, but also is detrimental to the health and safety of people – as workers or as general citizens. Carbon pollution is one thing, and sulfur dioxide (SO2) is another. Most hydrocarbon fuels, which are the main products of fractional distillation, naturally contain sulfur compounds. This means that when the product substances are combusted, SO2 forms and dissipates into the atmosphere. Not only is this as detrimentally potent as CO2 and CO, it also expels a pungent odour. In addition, when SO2 dissolves in water droplets in clouds, acid rain is almost inevitable. The acidic nature of the rain damages structures and a thin waxy layer of leaves on trees which make it more difficult for the plant life to absorb essential nutrients – making wilted plants a possibility. Marine life is also endangered simultaneously since oil refineries are situated so often near water bodies. Despite these unfavourable wastes as consequence of processes within industrial distillation, treatment has been invested to minimise air and water pollution. These treatment mechanisms involve combining SO2 (from waste gases) with powdered limestone in order to form calcium sulfate (CaSO4) in addition to clean gases which end out of the chimneys. Nonetheless, this environmentallyfriendly measure comes at an expensive price which leads to the question of sustainability as well as economic-efficiency. It is a matter of time to determine the sustainability of such investments.

Left: Chimneys expelling waste gases Right: A schematic diagram showing process of removing sulfur dioxide (SO2)

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David Ngo

Chemistry

Industrial Separation of a Mixture

Bibliography http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/aqa_pre_2011/rocks/fuelsrev3.shtml http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/aqa_pre_2011/rocks/fuelsrev4.shtml http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/aqa_pre_2011/rocks/fuelsrev5.shtml http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-refining1.htm http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-refining3.htm http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-refining2.htm http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/energy/oil-refining4.htm Irwin, D. (2007), 17.3 Separation of petroleum (crude oil), Chemistry Contexts 1: Preliminary Course (2nd edition) Australia: Pearson Education Australia (p304-307) Smith, R. (2000), 9.8 Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil, Conquering Chemistry: Preliminary Course (3rd edition) Australia: McGraw Hill Australia (p267-270) I acknowledge the above citations as being the only sources in which my information and images have been derived from.

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David Ngo

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