Petroleum refining begins with the distillation, or fractionation, of crude oils into separate hydrocarbon groups. The resultant products are directly related to the characteristics of the crude oil being processed. Most of these products of distillation are further converted into more useable products by changing their physical and molecular structures through cracking, reforming and other conversion processes. These products are subsequently subjected to various treatment and separation processes, such as extraction, hydrotreating and sweetening, in order to produce finished products. Whereas the simplest refineries are usually limited to atmospheric and vacuum distillation, integrated refineries incorporate fractionation, conversion, treatment and blending with lubricant, heavy fuels and asphalt manufacturing; they may also include petrochemical processing.

Major Products of Crude Oil Refining

Petroleum refining has evolved continuously in response to changing consumer demand for better and different products. The original process requirement was to produce kerosene as a cheaper and better source of fuel for lighting than whale oil. The development of the internal combustion engine led to the production of benzene, gasoline and diesel fuels. The evolution of the airplane created a need for high-octane aviation gasoline and jet fuel, which is a sophisticated form of the original refinery product, kerosene. Present-day refineries produce a variety of products, including many which are used as feedstocks for cracking processes and lubricant manufacturing, and for the petrochemical industry. These products can be broadly classified as fuels, petrochemical feedstocks, solvents, process oils, lubricants and special products such as wax, asphalt and coke.

Principal products of crude oil refining

Hydrocarbon gases Uses
Liquified gases Cooking and industrial gas
Motor fuel gas
Illuminating gas
Ammonia
Synthetic fertilizer
Alcohols
Solvents and acetone
Plasticizers
Resins and fibres for plastics and textiles
Paints and varnish
Chemical industry feedstock Rubber products
Carbon black Printing inks
Rubber industry
Light distillates
Light naphthas Olefins
Solvents and diluents
Extraction solvents
Chemical industry feedstocks
Intermediate naphthas Aviation and motor gasoline
Dry-cleaning solvents
Heavy naphthas Military jet fuel
Jet fuel and kerosene
Tractor fuel
Gas oil Cracking stock
Heating oil and diesel fuel
Metallurgical fuel
Absorber oil—benzene and gasoline recovery
Heavy distillates
Technical oils Textile oils
Medicinal oils and cosmetics
White oil—food industry
Lubricating oils Transformer and spindle oils
Motor and engine oils
Machine and compressor oils
Turbine and hydraulic oils
Transmission oils
Equipment and cable insulation oils
Axle, gear and steam engine oils
Metal treating, cutting and grinding oils
Quenching and rust inhibitor oils
Heat transfer oils
Lubricating greases and compounds
Printing ink oils
Paraffin wax Rubber industry
Pharmaceuticals and cosmetics
Food and paper industries
Candles and matches
Residues
Petrolatum Petroleum jelly
Cosmetics
Rust inhibitors and lubricants
Cable coating compounds
Residual fuel oil No. 6 boiler and process fuel oil
Asphalts Paving asphalt
Roofing materials
Asphaltic lubricants
Insulating and foundation protection
Waterproof paper products
Refinery by-products
Coke Electrodes and fuel
Sulphonates Emulsifiers
Sulphuric acid Synthetic fertilizer
Sulphur Chemicals
Hydrogen Hydrocarbon reformation