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Safety and environmental concerns

Operation

Crude oil is separated into fractions by fractional distillation. The fractions at the top of the fractionating column have lower boiling points than the fractions at the bottom. The heavy bottom fractions are often cracked into lighter, more useful products. All of the fractions are processed further in other refining units.

Raw or unprocessed crude oil is not generally useful. Although "light, sweet" (low viscosity, low sulfur) crude oil has been used directly as a burner fuel for steam vessel propulsion, the lighter elements form explosive vapors in the fuel tanks and are therefore hazardous, especially in warships. Instead, the hundreds of different hydrocarbon molecules in crude oil are separated in a refinery into components which can be used as fuels, lubricants, and as feedstock in petrochemical processes that manufacture such products as plastics, detergents, solvents, elastomers and fibers such as nylon and polyesters.

Petroleum fossil fuels are burned in internal combustion engines to provide power for ships, automobiles, aircraft engines, lawn mowers, chainsaws, and other machines. Different boiling points allow the hydrocarbons to be separated by distillation. Since the lighter liquid products are in great demand for use in internal combustion engines, a modern refinery will convert heavy hydrocarbons and lighter gaseous elements into these higher value products.

The oil refinery in Haifa, Israel is capable of processing about 9 million tons (66 million barrels) of crude oil a year. Its two cooling towers are landmarks of the city's skyline.

Oil can be used in a variety of ways because it contains hydrocarbons of varying molecular masses, forms and lengths such as paraffins, aromatics, naphthenes (or cycloalkanes), alkenes, dienes, and alkynes. While the molecules in crude oil include different atoms such as sulfur and nitrogen, the hydrocarbons are the most common form of molecules, which are molecules of varying lengths and complexity made of hydrogen and carbon atoms, and a small number of oxygen atoms. The differences in the structure of these molecules account for their varying physical and chemical properties, and it is this variety that makes crude oil useful in a broad range of applications.

Once separated and purified of any contaminants and impurities, the fuel or lubricant can be sold without further processing. Smaller molecules such as isobutane and propylene or butylenes can be recombined to meet specific octane requirements by processes such as alkylation, or less commonly, dimerization. Octane grade of gasoline can also be improved by catalytic reforming, which involves removing hydrogen from hydrocarbons producing compounds with higher octane ratings such as aromatics. Intermediate products such as gasoils can even be reprocessed to break a heavy, long-chained oil into a lighter short-chained one, by various forms of cracking such as fluid catalytic cracking, thermal cracking, and hydrocracking. The final step in gasoline production is the blending of fuels with different octane ratings, vapor pressures, and other properties to meet product specifications.



Oil refineries are large scale plants, processing about a hundred thousand to several hundred thousand barrels of crude oil a day. Because of the high capacity, many of the units operate continuously, as opposed to processing in batches, at steady state or nearly steady state for months to years. The high capacity also makes process optimization and advanced process control very desirable.

Safety and environmental concerns

The refining process releases numerous different chemicals into the atmosphere; consequently, there are substantial air pollution emissions[7] and a notable odor normally accompanies the presence of a refinery. Aside from air pollution impacts there are also wastewater concerns,[3] risks of industrial accidents such as fire and explosion, and noise health effects due to industrial noise.

The public has demanded that many governments place restrictions on contaminants that refineries release, and most refineries have installed the equipment needed to comply with the requirements of the pertinent environmental protection regulatory agencies. In the United States, there is strong pressure to prevent the development of new refineries, and no major refinery has been built in the country since Marathon's Garyville, Louisiana facility in 1976. However, many existing refineries have been expanded during that time. Environmental restrictions and pressure to prevent construction of new refineries may have also contributed to rising fuel prices in the United States.[8] Additionally, many refineries (over 100 since the 1980s) have closed due to obsolescence and/or merger activity within the industry itself. This activity has been reported to Congress and in specialized studies not widely publicised.

Environmental and safety concerns mean that oil refineries are sometimes located some distance away from major urban areas. Nevertheless, there are many instances where refinery operations are close to populated areas and pose health risks such as in the Campo de Gibraltar, a CEPSA refinery near the towns of Gibraltar, Algeciras, La Linea, San Roque and Los Barrios with a combined population of over 300,000 residents within a 5-mile (8.0 km) radius and the CEPSA refinery in Santa Cruz on the island of Tenerife, Spain[9] which is sited in a densely populated city center and next to the only two major evacuation routes in and out of the city. In California's Contra Costa County and Solano County, a shoreline necklace of refineries, built in the early 1900s before this area was populated, and associated chemical plants are adjacent to urban areas in Richmond, Martinez, Pacheco, Concord, Pittsburg, Vallejo and Benicia, with occasional accidental events that require "shelter in place" orders to the adjacent populations.


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 774


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