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Oil refinery types & their crude processing

Alright, let's break down the oil refinery world in a way that's easy to get. So, in the big universe of oil, refineries are like different characters, each with their own skills and roles.


They come in various types, and what sets them apart is stuff like how much oil they can handle, how complicated their operations are, and the kinds of oil products they end up making. Let's dive into the main types of refineries and see what kind of crude oil they deal with.


Topping Refineries: These are the most basic and mainly perform atmospheric distillation of light or intermediate crude oil. They separate the oil into basic fractions like naphtha, kerosene, diesel, and heavy residues. These refineries do not have secondary conversion units and, therefore, are less complex and suited for less complex crudes.


Hydrotreating Refineries: These refineries primarily process intermediate crudes, adding an additional step of hydrotreating to remove impurities such as sulfur, nitrogen, and metals from the oil fractions. They are more sophisticated than topping refineries and improve the quality of the final products.


Cracking Refineries: These refineries are suitable for heavier crude oils. They incorporate cracking processes to break down larger hydrocarbon molecules into smaller ones. This allows for converting heavy residues into more valuable products like gasoline and diesel. Cracking refineries can use thermal or catalytic cracking.


Deep Conversion Refineries: Designed to handle heavy and extra-heavy crude oils, these refineries have advanced processing units that allow for a deeper conversion of crude oil into higher-value products. They include processes like catalytic cracking, hydrodesulfurization, catalytic reforming, and coking. These refineries maximize the production of gasoline and diesel and minimize the production of residual products.


Integrated Refineries: These refineries are highly versatile and can process a wide range of crude oils, from light to heavy. They combine various processing units to produce a wider range of products, including petrochemicals. These refineries are highly complex and flexible in terms of the types of crude they can process and the products they can generate.


Specialized Refineries: These refineries are often designed to process specific types of crude oil, tailored for producing specialized products such as lubricants, asphalts, or petrochemical products. They might process very heavy crudes or crudes with specific characteristics needed for their specialized final products.


Each type of refinery has its own set of technologies and processes, adapted to the market needs and the characteristics of the available crude oil. The choice of refinery type depends on factors such as market demand, product prices, environmental regulations, and the availability of raw materials.


Oil refinery
Oil refinery

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