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Petroleum Processing

Summary and Final Tasks


Petroleum refining may be considered as the most sophisticated scheme of integrated physical and chemical processes to meet the market demand for a number of fuels and materials in the economy. In addition to satisfying the performance specifications required by combustion engines, the composition of the produced fuels such as gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel fuel, should be in compliance with environmental regulations. Considering that crude oil is a natural material that displays a wide range variability in hydrocarbon composition and the distribution of heteroatom species, it is vital to practice an optimum sequence of the four types of processes that make up petroleum refining: separation, conversion, finishing, and support. These processes are integrated as an example of industrial ecology, such that every drop of crude oil ends up as a marketable product, including the contaminants such as sulfur. The U.S. refineries are configured to maximize the yield of gasoline (a light distillate) as the major product, along with jet fuel and diesel fuel (middle distillates). A number of processes produce different gasoline streams that are blended in sophisticated linear and non-linear programming schemes to produce the three grades of gasoline sold in the U.S. for profit. A quick walk through the network of refinery processes reveals the two general strategies that are in place to create the most value in the operation: carbon rejection and hydrogen addition. The balance between these two strategies hangs in the refinery economics and the markets for crude oil and refined petroleum products.

Learning Objectives

You should now be able to:

  • illustrate the refinery processes with examples for each category of processes;
  • distinguish and evaluate the functions of different refinery processes to control refinery product yield and composition;
  • evaluate the principles behind the major refinery processes and examine the products from each process  from Distillation to Hydrocracking;
  • formulate strategies for upgrading heavy oil.

Reminder - Complete all of the Lesson 3 tasks!

You have reached the end of Lesson 3! Double-check the to-do list below to make sure you have completed all of the activities listed there before you begin Lesson 4. Please refer to the Course Syllabus for specific time frames and due dates. Specific directions for the assignment below can be found within this lesson.

Lesson 3
Readings: J. H. Gary, G. E. Handwerk, Mark J. Kaiser, Chapter 1, pp. 32-36; Chapter 2, pp. 41-55 and the course material from this site
Assignments: Submit Exercise 2 as a PDF, or Excel file to the Exercise 2 assignment in the Lesson 3 Module.


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.