The refinery’s raw material is crude oil, a fossil fuel formed over hundreds of millions of years from deposits of decayed plants and animals.
The refinery’s crude oil supply comes from several locations around the world and from sources in North America.
Refining crude oil involves a combination of processes designed to sort out the various elements that it contains. Generally called hydrocarbons, the oil is heated to a high temperature, and the various “fractions” such as gasoline, distillates (like diesel fuel, heating oil, kerosene, etc.) and lighter elements like butane, propane, etc., are released at their various boiling points, similar to the way steam is released from water when it reaches its boiling point. This is also known as distillation.
Those individual fractions, or cuts, then go on for further processing until they are suitable for marketing to our customers. Some of those “downstream” processes are described below.
Separation sorts hydrocarbons based on their physical properties, such as their boiling point – the point at which they turn from a liquid to a gas. Each fraction has a distinct boiling point.
Conversion changes the chemical properties of a sorted fraction. This is done at process units using a catalyst, a material that creates a reaction that converts the chemical structure of the fraction it receives from the crude unit or other process units. Two types of conversion units are catalytic reformers and catalytic crackers.
Treating removes the impurities found in crude oil. Since crude oil is pumped from below ground, it will contain water, sand, salt and other elements (like sulfur). Treating removes these contaminants to facilitate refining and also produces an environmentally cleaner product. It is a continuous process that occurs at various plants within the refinery.
Blending combines various hydrocarbons into the finished products, making cleaner-burning gasolines and other fuels for our customers.
The refinery also manufactures a chemical called cumene, which is sold to customers who produce synthetic fabrics and other products such as auto panels and carpeting, etc.