FSC 432
Petroleum Processing

Lesson 1 Overview


Lesson 1 Overview

Video: FSC 432 Lesson 1 (2:04)

Click here for transcript of FSC Lesson 1

Hello. In this lesson, we will go over the market drivers for Petroleum Refining Industry, an overview of refinery processes and refinery products, and the chemical constitution of crude oil. Obviously, the principle driver for Petroleum Refining Industry is economics that is now very closely tied to environmental regulations as well. So we need to look into the supply and demand picture, whether it is for the crude oil or the refined products such as fuels, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, et cetera, and the environmental regulations on the compositions of these fuels, as well as on the operation of the refinery, and the flexibility of the refinery to respond to the demand shifts or supply shifts on either side of this equation.

And we go over finally the chemical constitution of this very complex feedstock, crude oil, and how we can in essence better understand how different each crude oil is, and what our refiners can do to adjust the processes to accommodate these differences in the crude oil circle. A recent development in the United States increased production of shale gas, which also produces some liquid byproducts that are entering the refinery as alternative feedstock. We need to really understand how these feeds could be refined to give us a conventional set of products that we produce in the refinery. So I look forward to seeing you in these lessons and go through the activities.

Credit: Dutton Institution © Penn State is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0


Petroleum provides the largest fraction of primary energy supply in the U.S. and in the world [Figure 1.1,eia1]. Resource consumption patterns shown in Figure 1.1 reflect major epochs in human history, such as The Industrial Revolution, ushering in the rapid increase in coal consumption.  Petroleum trace, for example, marks the mass production of automobiles with the introduction of Model T by Ford, world wars, supply crises of 1973 and 1979 and the economic recession in 2008. Transportation of people and goods in many parts of the world depends almost completely on petroleum fuels, such as gasoline, jet fuel, diesel fuel, and marine fuel. Apart from the fuels, materials that are necessary for operating the combustion engines of cars, trucks, planes, and trains also come from petroleum. These materials include lubricating oils (motor oils), greases, tires on the wheels of the vehicles, and asphalt to pave the roads for smooth rides in transportation vehicles. All petroleum fuels and many materials are produced by the processing of crude oil in petroleum refineries. Petroleum refineries also supply feedstock to the petrochemicals and chemical industry for producing all consumer goods from rubber and plastics (polymers) to cosmetics and medicine. Only ten percent of petroleum consumption, the portion that is not used for transportation or other energy outlets, is sufficient to manufacture all the materials used in human economy, with the exception of those derived from wood or minerals.

History of energy use in U.S. 1776-2012. Petroleum highest, natural gas second, coal third, Others: less than 10%.
Figure 1.1. History of energy use in the United States. 1 Quadrillion (1015) Btu = 1.05 × 1018 Joules.
Click for a text description of Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 is showing the history of energy consumption of the U.S. and the source of the energy. For nearly the first 100 years, the U.S. used only wood as our energy source until about the mid 1800’s. Afterward they started using more of what we think of as our standard energy materials such as coal and petroleum. The 20th century is when sources we now consider alternative started to appear such as hydraulic, nuclear, solar and natural gas.

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The petroleum industry consists of two separate operations: Upstream and Downstream Operations. Upstream operations involve exploration of new oil reserves, development of oil fields, constructing the well-head and crude oil production facilities. Downstream operations cover processing of crude oil in petroleum refineries to produce liquid and gaseous fuels and materials for the market. This course addresses petroleum refining to review how a variety of physical processes and chemical reactions in separate refinery units are integrated to process compliant fuels and materials.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this lesson, you will be able to:

  • recognize the significance of petroleum fuels in the U.S. energy supply;
  • express the overall objectives of petroleum refining;
  • identify the economic and environmental drivers of petroleum refining;
  • describe the overall approach to petroleum refining and categorize refinery processes and products;
  • portray chemical constitution of petroleum.

What is due for Lesson 1?

This lesson will take us one week to complete. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignments below can be found on the Assignment page within this lesson.

This table contains the readings and assignments for Lesson 1.
Readings J. H. Gary, G. E. Handwerk, Mark J. Kaiser, Chapter 1, pp. 1-12; Chapter 3, pp. 62-65
Assignments For your information, review the most recent supply of petroleum fuels from the data given at U.S. Energy Information Administration (eia.gov) and research how petroleum refining addresses the environmental concerns from the combustion of petroleum fuels in internal combustion engines.


If you have any questions, please post them to our Help Discussion (not email), located in Canvas. I will check that discussion forum daily to respond. While you are there, feel free to post your own responses if you, too, are able to help out a classmate.