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Marketing to Leaders of Oil Refining in the Energy Vertical

Understanding Their Role

Oil refining is the process of turning crude oil into usable products. Oil refineries are massive, complex industrial plants. Not all crude oil is the same. The composition and appearance of crude can vary significantly depending on where it was extracted. Refineries must run the crude, called feedstock in the refinery, through several steps to transform it into finished products. First, any water or dissolved salts are removed in a process called desalting. Next, the feedstock enters a distillation process, where it is heated in a large tower. Different parts of crude oil, called fractions, vaporize at different temperatures. By adjusting the temperature, crude can be separated into its individual components. Lighter gases, such as butane and propane turn to vapor at relatively low temperatures. Slightly higher temperatures turn gasoline into vapor. More heat releases kerosene, and then diesel, and so on. Any remaining materials not turned into gas are called residue, which is commonly used in road construction.1


The feedstock is now separated into its component parts, but not all of these parts have equal value. Gasoline, for example, is much more profitable than the other fractions, so the refineries use several conversion processes to transform lower value parts into higher value products. Cracking and coking processes turn heavier fractions into lighter ones, for example transforming residue into gasoline. Combining process can turn lighter fractions into heavier ones. Using these conversion methods refineries adjust their output to meet the market’s current needs.2


The last stage in refining, called finishing, involves blending in various compounds to boost the performance of the final product. Gasoline produced in the distillation phase, for example, has an octane rating of 70, much lower than current market requirements, so other chemicals are blended in to make a higher quality end-product.3


“Petroleum refining has evolved continuously in response to changing consumers…. The original requirement was to produce kerosene as a cheaper and better source of light than whale oil.”


1 OSHA Technical Manual. US Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Section IV: Chapter 2. Available at: www.osha.gov/dts/osta/otm/otm_iv/otm_iv_2.html

2 Hilyard, Joseph. The Oil and Gas Industry: A Nontechnical Guide . Chapter 11. Edited by Hill, Stephen. 1421 South Sheridan Road, Tulsa, Oklahoma 74112-6600: PennWell Corporation, 2012.

3 Ibid.

4 OSHA Technical Manual.


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Marketing to Leaders of Oil Refining in the Energy Vertical

Oil refineries turn crude oil into finished products. The most important output is gasoline, but they also produce a wide variety of petroleum products including jet fuel, diesel fuel, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), motor oil and asphalt.