When most people pull up to the pump or add more oil to there vehicle they don’t give a second thought. Both motor oil and gasoline stem from the same source which is crude oil. Their production and usefulness are only possible after crude oil has been refined. Understanding is never a bad thing, so let’s take a closer look at how crude oil becomes a finished product.
First Comes The Separation
During the first step of refining, oil is distilled. This occurs when the oil is heated in a column until it vaporizes. As vapors rise, they condense to liquids and are captured in trays at various heights. Each tray resprents a different petrolium cut. The heavy residue at the bottom is distilled again to recover things such as diesel.
Then Comes The Conversion
Heavy hydrocarbons remain after seperation and thus a conversion process to breakdown these heavy hydrocarbons molecules into lighter ones. A catalyst is used to accelerate the chemical reaction. Gas and gasonline/diesel are produced at this stage. This process can be both complex and costly. Reactor maintenance and catalyst property management are important for ongoing production.
Lastly, Treatment Must Occur
The last stage of the refining process is treatment. It is during this stage that corrosive elements and those that pollute the air are removed as much as possible. Sulfur is the chief culprit here. Automotive fuels must also undergo further treatment to increase its octane level.
Though there is a movement to push for new and renewable energy sources, petrolium still has a large role to play as an energy source for most people. It is prudent for companies to find better, clearner ways to both exact oil from the ground and refine it to a final product. Understanding the current process of how it is currently refine may at some point spark ideas of how it can be done better.