Processing Crude Oil into Useable Fossil Fuel Products

Refineries process crude oil into useable fossil fuel products. The process typically begins by extracting raw crude oil from a well and running it through a distillation tower. As it passes through various levels or trays, the fluid is heated to separate hydrocarbons of dissimilar densities. Lighter hydrocarbon chains will rise to the top of the column while the heaviest will sink to the bottom.

Raw crude oils are a heterogeneous mixture of different hydrocarbons. Once separated, they can be independently formatted into a range of products. Light hydrocarbon chains – like methane, propane, and butane – can be redirected to the distillation tower to act as a fuel for subsequent separation processes. They are also commonly processed for sale. The TraceS-1000, manufactured by ATOM Instrument can be used to reliably inspect the desulfurization process and ensure that only trace amounts (0-1000 ppbv) are present in end products.

Waste fuels from the distillation process are usually incinerated in a Flare Stack. High sulfur levels cannot be safely incinerated in the Flare in accordance with US EPA CFR 60.18 subpart JA. ATOM’s FGA-1000 Total Sulfur Analyzer can measure %vol total sulfur according to established EPA designations, guaranteeing safe removal of high sulfur volumes and redirection to an SRU where it can be recycled for other areas of the refinery process.

Middleweight hydrocarbon products – like kerosene, gasoline, and naphtha – are directed to fuel blenders where myriad different oil blends can be manufactured to meet the requirements of varied customers. This demands tight control of the fuel blending process. ATOM Instrument’s patented Ultraviolet Fluorescence Systems can assist in Total Sulfur analysis to ensure that all blends and grades are compliant with ASTM D5453. Once compliance has been assured and blends are appropriately formatted, they are sent to the terminal, from where they will be shipped all around the world.

Heavy hydrocarbon chains in the crude must be subjected to sequential distillation processes to break them up into shorter chains. Online analyzers offer real-time data for plant operators to inform decision-making processes on how to achieve the optimal yield from residue products.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by ATOM Instrument.

For more information on this source, please visit ATOM Instrument.


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