What is Refined Products?
Refined petroleum products are derived from crude oils through processes such as catalytic cracking and fractional distillation. Refining is a necessary step before oil can be burned as fuel or used to create end products1.
Refined products have physical and chemical characteristics that differ according to the type of crude oil and subsequent refining processes. The major refined oil products include2:
- Gasoline – commonly used as fuel for internal combustion engines featured everywhere in modern society, from automobiles to industrial equipment
- Kerosene – also known as jet fuel, is used in planes, for heating, and sometimes for cooking. Before the light bulb was invented, kerosene was the primary lighting source
- No. 2 Fuel Oil – often used in diesel engines or as regular home heating oils
- No. 4 Fuel Oil – also known as bunker oil, is used in large stationary engines, power plants, and very large commercial boilers. When burned as heating fuel, no. 4 oil may contain several contaminants including nickel and sulphur.
- No. 5 Fuel Oil (Bunker B) – a lighter heating oil where under some climatic conditions may be handled and burned without preheating.
- No. 6 Fuel Oil (Bunker C) – used to make asphalt for paving and is burned in some large commercial boilers. No. 6 oil, like No. 4, when burned as heating fuel, may contain several contaminants including nickel and sulphur.
- Lubricating Oil – a medium-weight material that flows easily and is easily dispersed if treated promptly. This oil has a low volatility and moderate flash point, but is fairly persistent in the environment.
Several of these refined products can be chemically processed, turning them into nylons and plastics.
The global need for refined oil products creates the single strongest demand for extraction of oil deposits. Refined oil products are incredibly important to today’s modern society, but issues arise when the life cycle of the refined oil products, from cradle to grave, are considered. For example, consider a plastic product. The oil has to go through an extraction process, a refining process, then chemical processes to turn it into the plastic material. Finally it goes through the manufacturing processes to create an end product out of the plastic. Subsequently, the product has to be stored in warehouses, sold at retail stores, and finally disposed of after its useful life ends.