When petroleum is pumped up out of the ground, it doesn't come out separated out into all the different products, like gasoline, kerosene, and diesel. So how do all the different products come from crude oil?
Crude oil is basically a whole bunch of hydrocarbons of various lengths with some other impurities added in. The oil itself varies in grade from a thick, heavy, tarry oil to one that is clear and water-like.
The hydrocarbons are where the energy come from. They are chains of hydrogen and carbon atoms that have hooked up together. There are different lengths of hydrocarbon chains, which will eventually turn into different products, like heating oil, gasoline, and diesel.
The process that breaks down the crude oil into the different products is called refining. The refining process will start to separate out the various lengths of hydrocarbon chains so that they can be turned into their own products.
Fractional Distillation Column
The way that the column works is that it heats up the oil until it vaporizes. Each length of hydrocarbon will vaporize at a different point, and when it vaporizes, it gets pulled into the appropriate area so that it can finish the refining process.
Not all refineries use the fractional distillation method. They may use a chemical refining process. Chemical processing can help to separate out the various hydrocarbons, but more than that, it can also be used to change one product into another. For example, the refinery may use chemicals that can break down the longer hydrocarbons of diesel down into the shorter chains of gasoline.
Not only are there a lot of hydrocarbons in crude oil, there are also a lot of impurities. Even after the crude has been broken down into its component parts, there are still going to be impurities that are going to need to be cleaned out. The different oil products can be passed through sulfuric acid, an absorption column, or sulfur scrubbers. In fact, the various products will probably go through more than one of these processes in order to get out all the impurities. If any impurities get through this process, they can cause all kinds of problems at their end use.
Crude oil has a lot of uses. But it needs to go through a refining and purifying process before it can be used for anything at all. Contact a business, such as Small & Sons Oil Dist Co, for more information.