Saturday, November 30, 2013

Oil Refineries Need Proper Feeding To Thrive.

An Oil Refinery must be fed with care. 

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?
The challenge for every refiner is that crude oil comes in a diverse range of quality and compositions. When it comes to crude oil feed-stocks, "one size fits all" in not an option for petroleum refiners.

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.
Knowing what you should get from a specified barrel of oil to feed your refinery is one thing. What you actually get from that barrel can be quite another. Crude oil stocks contracted for refinery usage can become contaminated or fail other contractual quality and quantity specifications. This is why crude oil feed-stocks are routinely inspected and tested for both quality and quantity before they are injected into the refinery for processing. Crude oil feed-stock testing and inspection before use at a refinery is equivalent to having your food 'tasted' before you eat it.

To learn more about crude oil assay testing, please visit Crude Oil Assay: What it Means to Refiners.


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