Oil refineries may look like large and impressive examples of industrial might, but in reality they suffer from delicate disgestive systems which can be easily upset if they are put on the wrong diet of crude oil feed-stocks.
Refineries take an expensive, but nearly useless, hazardous material (crude oil), and convert this gooey mess into usable and valuable refined products. An oil refinery makes its living consuming crude oil and turning that crude into a wide range of fuels (including gasoline, diesel, jet, fuel oil), petrochemicals, and other products. These refined products help power, build, and move our modern civilization.
|Does the Refinery need a little extra Vitamin C today?|
If a particular crude oil agrees with the configuration of particular refinery, then refined product production is good and the refining yield is optimized. If a particular crude oil disagrees with how a refinery is configured, results will be less than optimal, cause multiple problems and can even upset (disrupt) the refinery.
Crude oil widely ranges in quality. Variables in crude oil include sulfur (sweet to sour), heavy metals, light versus heavy content, waxes, asphaltenes, water, mercury, and many other components which can greatly affect a refinery's ability to refine and optimize production. Blended crudes pose additional challenges. Crude oil selection can help or hurt a refiner's efforts to meet client quality and government regulatory requirements.
To manage this problem, every petroleum refinery in the world has a unique and customized design, using a wide range of engineering, process, and technology options to build individual refining processes which will 'optimize' the production and profit for each refinery. The degree of technology and processes used to optimize crude oil refining can be described as 'complexity'. Some refineries are more complex than others, depending upon the crude oil feed-stocks each refinery is built to digest.
An important resource in every refiner's tool kit is the ability to scientifically measure the components in each crude oil stream the refinery is looking to purchase for consumption. Called "Crude Oil Assay" analysis, this detailed collection of laboratory tests are equivalent to a nutrition label on a package of food. Armed with important quality data concerning a particular type of crude oil, decisions can then be made to purchase the crude or avoid it entirely. Refiners can also reconfigure their refinery, after some cost and investment, to take on any new crudes they like.
Petroleum engineers and refinery managers pay close attention to the ingredients of a barrel of crude oil going into their refinery. Unlike humans, when an oil refinery has 'indigestion' the costs incurred are a lot more than just the price for a package of antacids or milk of magnesia!
|Attention Oil Refinery: Dinner is Served.|
To learn more about crude oil assay testing, please visit Crude Oil Assay: What it Means to Refiners.