Extraction And Refining Of Crude Oil

Extraction of Crude oil is a process where the oil is removed from the undersurface by drilling oil wells and bringing the oil to the surface. It is then transported to the oil refinery by pipeline, ship or a truck. Oil refineries are usually located near rivers or other water bodies due to the usage of cooling water. The unprocessed fossil fuel needs to be refined and converted into a usable form for the final consumption. The fossil fuel industry is classified into various sectors or categories such as upstream, midstream and downstream. Exploration of Crude oil and drilling can be termed as upstream. Hence, this sector is known as exploration and production (E&P) sector.

The Determination of supply is done by the upstream industry, which is of utmost importance as it affects the prices in the downstream industry. The demand for oil is the main concern of the downstream and midstream sectors. Refining of Crude oil, selling and distributing the various end products such as asphalt, synthetic, rubber, plastics etc are the major activities of the downstream sector. Advancement in technology plays a major role in the exploration and extraction of Crude oil in the upstream industry. The seismic surveys and various instruments help in detecting the oil reservoirs. Once the reservoir is located, the density is determined by sending radio waves into the earth’s surface. A three dimensional seismic imaging is used to send the radio waves. From the data obtained by the seismic models, scientists determine the reservoir size.

The companies in the upstream sector should devise a plan to forecast the demand and calculate the rate of extraction so that the reserves don’t go dry. Based on the amount of Crude oil explored and extracted, the amount of oil that can be processed is determined. A hole is drilled to make oil bore wells and a steel pipe is fitted into the hole, after which a collection of valves is mounted on top. In some geographical locations, the oil comes naturally to the earth’s surface. Various huge pipes and vessels are used in the refinery to separate the hydrocarbons from the Crude oil. The oil refinery is operated by highly automated control rooms. The most common process units found in a refinery are Desalter, Catalytic reformer, hydrocracker, coking etc.

Fractional distillation is a process where, at different boiling points, the hydrocarbons contained in the Crude oil are broken down into fractions. Various heating furnaces are used for the fractional distillation of Crude oil. The distillation tower holds the heavier fractions at the bottom and those in the lighter form, in gaseous state gets settled at the top inside the distillation tower. A network of reactors and huge burning furnaces are used to crack heavy hydrocarbon molecules into lighter fractions. Cat cracking or catalytic cracking is where intense heat and a material that speeds up the chemical reaction are used in the cracking process. Purifying and blending are the major processes when it comes to refining. The fractions are made to cool and then they are blended to make products such as gasoline, heating oil, diesel oil, kerosene, plastics, jet fuel etc.

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