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Crude Oil Refining &

By: Kelvin Wong, Kaying Ng,
Shaheen Zangooi

What is Crude Oil & Crude Oil Refining?

Crude oil, also known as black gold, is a thick, dark brown or greenish
flammable liquid, which is found in the upper strata of some regions of the
Earth's crust
It is a complex mixture of various hydrocarbons, (mainly, alkanes), along with
trances of other chemicals and compounds (e.g. Sulphur)
When extracted from underground, it ranges in density from very light to very
heavy and in color, from yellow to black
Crude oil can be categorized as either "sweet crude" (where the sulphur
content less than 0.5%) or "sour crude," (where the sulphur content is at least
Crude oil must undergo several separation
processes so that its components can be
obtained and used as fuels or converted to
more valuable products
The process of transforming crude oil into
finished petroleum products (that the
market demands) is called crude oil refining

An Oil Refinery

Distillation of Crude Oil

We can separate the components of crude oil by taking advantage of the

differences in their boiling points. This is done by simply heating up crude
oil, allowing it to vaporize, and then letting the vapor to condense at different
levels of the distillation tower (depending on their boiling points). This
process is called fractional distillation and the products of the fractional
distillation of crude oil is called fractions

A fraction from crude oil can be categorized into two categories:

Refined Product: A crude oil fraction which contains a lot of individual
hydrocarbons (e.g. gasoline, asphalt, waxes, and lubricants)

Petrochemical Product: A crude oil fraction which contain one or two

specific hydrocarbons of high purity (e.g. benzene, toluene, and

Crude Oil Refining



Short carbon

Long carbon

Light molecules

Heavy molecules

Low boiling

High boiling points

Gases & very

runny liquids

Thick, viscous

Very volatile

Low volatility

Light colour

Dark colour

Highly flammable

Not very

Fractions of Crude Oil & Their Properties


Number of
Carbon Atoms

Boiling Point


Refinery Gas

3 or 4

below 30

Bottled Gas
(propane or butane).


7 to 9

100 to 150

Fuel for car



6 to 11

70 to 200

and used in gasoline.

Kerosene (paraffin)

11 to 18

200 to 300

Fuel for aircraft

and stoves.

Diesel Oil

11 to 18

200 to 300

Fuel for road vehicles

and trains.

Lubricating Oil

18 to 25

300 to 400

Lubricant for engines

and machines.

Fuel Oil

20 to 27

350 to 450

Fuel for ships

and heating.

Greases and Wax

25 to 30

400 to 500

and candles.


above 35

above 500

Road surface
and roofing.

Chemical Processing

The fractions from crude oil are liable to undergo chemical processing to
alter its structure and thus its properties
The sort of chemical processing employed depends largely on the market
Examples of chemical processes are as the following:
Cracking: the process obtaining relatively simple and small
hydrocarbon molecules from the breaking down of large, heavier and
more complex hydrocarbon molecules.
Coking: the process of breaking down bitumen into its fractions
(done by a Coker)
Alkylation: A process where the structure of a hydrocarbon
molecule in one fraction is altered to produce another hydrocarbon
molecule with another structure. In alkylation, compounds with a low
molecular weight, such as propylene and butylene, are mixed in the
presence of a catalyst such as hydrofluoric acid or sulfuric acid
Unification: a process where two or more hydrocarbons are
combined to produce a larger one. The major unification process is
called catalytic reforming and occurs in the presence of a catalyst
(platinum, platinum-rhenium mix) to combine low weight naphtha into

Treatment Processes

Chemical sweetening, acid treating, clay contacting, caustic

washing, hydro treating, drying, solvent extraction, and solvent
dewaxing. Sweetening compounds and acids desulphurize crude oil
before processing and treat products during and after processing.

Clay Treating

Dilute the oil with solvent and freeze the oil

Use clay to soak up and remove unwanted components in petroleum

During the freezing process, wax will be solidify leaving only the pure oil
in liquid phase

Acid treating
Using concentrated sulphuric acid to convert sludge from the oil

SO2 Treating

Using a very toxic recyclable solvent to remove the worst components in


Treatment: The Finishing Touch

Impurities such as organic compounds containing sulphur, nitrogen, oxygen,

water, dissolved metals and inorganic salts must be removed from the
distillated and chemically processed fractions
Treating is typically done by passing the fractions through the following:
a column of sulphuric acid - removes unsaturated hydrocarbons
(hydrocarbons with carbon-carbon double-bonds), nitrogen
compounds, oxygen compounds and residual solids (tars, asphalt)
an absorption column filled with drying agents to dehydrate the
sulphur treatment and hydrogen-sulphide scrubbers to remove
sulphur and sulphur compounds
Today, a major portion of refining involves blending, purifying, fine-tuning and
improving products to meet specific requirements
Example: Refinery workers carefully blend together a variety of
hydrocarbons to make petrol. Moreover to distinguish the various grades of
fuel, technicians add performance additives and dyes. At the end of the
production of petrol, the petrol contains more than 200 hydrocarbons and

Refining Capacities

Why Upgrade An Oil Refinery?

Oil refining releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere

Response to changing market demands for certain products
Government regulations
Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA90)
Changing consumer demand for better and different products
Decrease the number of non-hydrocarbons, impurities, and other
Potential physical, mechanical, chemical, and health hazards are
recognized in air

Accomplishment of Oil Refinery


The emissions of
pollutants from oil
refining decreased
significantly over the
past decade due to
the new technology
implemented into the
oil refining

Solvent-Refining Process

Uses chemicals (fairly safe recyclable solvent) to dissolve one part of the oil
from another
Removes heavy materials and wax (undesirable component by extraction)


How Stuff Works. 1998. How Oil Refining Works?. [Online].

UTS Energy Corporation. 2005. Glossary. [Online] 2005. Products of Oil. [Online]

Alan G. Lucas. 2000. Modern Petroleum Technology Volume 2. New York:

John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Douglas M. Ruthren. 1997. Encyclopaedia of Separation Technology

Volume 2. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc.