Extraction of Crude Oil - Refining of Crude Oil

Occurring naturally from the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago, crude oil is found in the pores of the rocks and earth's surface. Crude oil is in the form of raw material, which is unprocessed. Hence it needs to be extracted, processed and separated from its impurities. It is refined in a refinery and converted into useful petroleum products such as kerosene, diesel fuel, and Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), gasoline and asphalt base. With the distillation method, the hydrocarbons can be separated at various boiling points in the oil refinery.

Since the smoke emitted from the oil refineries is hazardous to humans and animals, the crude oil refinery is usually located far away from residential areas where proper facilities are available for waste disposal and the infrastructure should be suitable for the storage of the end products and shipment. The crude oil refineries occupy large space and huge investments are required to build a crude oil refinery. It is very expensive to maintain and clean the huge equipment such as furnaces, pipes and the other vessels and lot of manpower is involved to operate the various machines and use the equipments.

Extraction of Crude Oil

Extraction of crude oil can be divided into two major categories, which are upstream and downstream. Upstream is referred to as 'Exploration & Production' sector where crude oil is recovered and processed. In other words, drilling of wells and recovering the unprocessed oil to the surface is termed as upstream. Downstream involves refinement of crude oil, selling and distribution of products such as gasoline, jet fuel, petroleum coke, asphalt and much more. The downstream sector meets the demands of the consumers through plastics, fertilizers, synthetic rubber etc.

Gravimeters and magnetometers are the instruments used for searching petroleum. The extraction of crude oil involves digging holes into the earth with an oilrig to form oil wells. To ensure structural uprightness of the drilled oil bore, a casing or a steel pipe is inserted into the hole of it. Valves are finally fitted on top to control the flow of the oils.

Refining of Crude Oil

Refining of Crude Oil means separating the various compounds from the crude oil by heating them at different temperatures and is called fractional distillation. The crude oil breaks up into various fractions or components in hot furnaces. On vigorous heating, some of the fractions change into gaseous state and it passes through a distillation tower. The compound, which is in its gaseous state, cools down and condenses into liquid state as the height increases in the distillation tower.

The lightest fractions such as Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) vaporize and rise to the top inside the distillation tower. Kerosene is found in the middle of the tower and the fractions, which are heated at very high temperatures, settle down at the bottom of the crude oil distillation tower. Few heavier fractions need to be further transformed into new components by a conversion method called cracking. Using intense heat and catalyst, the fractions are further broken down into smaller molecular substances. The resulting products are fine tuned into usable end products for the customers.