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Crude Oil Processing

Applications for Crude Oil Processing

Refineries process crude oil into usable petroleum-based chemicals. Process analyzers such as our GUIDED WAVE™ NIR Spectrometers and Photometers with in-situ sample interfaces, and our UV-VIS wavelength spectrometers are all used for real-time monitoring in a profitable modern petrochemical environment.  Take a look at how our analyzers can be installed in a refinery and the various ASTM methods that they satisfy.

NIR Process Spectroscopy for the Petrochemical Industry


Near-Infrared (NIR) spectroscopy is used to monitor the hydrocarbon composition of various streams in the petrochemical and refining industries. A sample interface can be installed in each processing stage of a refinery to provide real-time data and actionable information.  At each stage of the refinery process, NIR spectroscopy is used to monitor specific traits such as the Research Octane Number, benzene content, and butane content.  Our GUIDED WAVE NIR-UV-VIS portfolio delivers measurement for:

  • Real-time monitoring of naphtha conversion, catalytic conversion, upgrading units, alkylation, and gasoline and diesel blending
  • PIONA content of Reformate, octane numbers, volatility (RVP, vapor-to-liquid ratio), aromatics content, olefins, oxygen, benzene, distillation parameters, Fuel ID, Color plus Turbidity

GUIDED WAVE ClearView db® is a Dual Beam Photometer for Continuous PAT Monitoring which is available with enclosure options.  Our GUIDED WAVE Lab NIR-O™ Benchtop NIR Spectrometer is ideal for the QC lab and Pilot Plant Operations.

The infographic shown below outlines where different analyzers can be installed in a refinery and the various ASTM methods that they satisfy.

Other middleweight products such as kerosene, gasoline, and naphtha can be sent to a fuel blender where an infinite number of grades or blends can be produced to meet the requirement of the end customer. In order to achieve the best possible margin, various analyzers can be installed inline to inspect the fuel blending process.

If a higher-octane rating is required, light naphtha can be sent through the isomerization reactor. During a single pass-through isomerization process, normal paraffins are converted to isoparaffins. Alternatively, the isomerization unit can be used to convert linear molecules (i.e. pentane) into higher-octane branched molecules for fuel blending. Also used to convert linear n-butane into iso-butane for use in the alky unit. During the isomerization process, Near-Infrared spectroscopy can be used to optimize catalyst conditions.

Additionally, naptha and other petroleum compounds can be converted to useful chemicals as part of the crude to chemical process. This often occurs in a series of Steam or Catalyst Cracking tanks. NIR can be used to monitor the PIONA (Paraffins, Isoparaffins, Olefins, Napthenes, Aromatics) and the Distillation curve during the cracking process. The Reformate or Platformate can then be fed into the fuel blender to adjust the cetane and octane values of the finished product.

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Refineries interested in maximizing profits commonly want to determine the Fuel Octane Numbers (i.e. RON, MON) with online near-infrared (NIR) spectroscopic analyzers such as Guided Wave’s NIR-O. Spectroscopy is a tool compliant with ASTM D6122 which enables refineries to blend expensive high-octane feedstocks with less expensive low octane naphtha while maintaining required octane levels and minimizing costs.

Viscosity is another important physical property in the refining of crude oil. During the fuel blending process, a heavy and high viscosity stream is mixed with a light and low viscosity stream to achieve the desired end product. The expected blend of petroleum products with the correct viscosity level can be achieved thanks to SOFRASER Thermoset-LT, which provides viscosity measurement at constant reference. The Thermoset- KV is the only online direct kinematic viscosity analyzer that is easily correlated with ASTM D445.

Unit operations producing or processing high viscosity streams (visbreaking), bottoms of atmospheric distillation, and vacuum distillation residues can be monitored by MIVI sensors or Thermoset analyzers for improved process control.

After the different grades of fuel have been appropriately blended, they can be sent by a pipeline to the terminal for shipment all around the world. At the downstream terminal, Fuel Identification by NIR spectroscopy ensures that the correct and in-specification petroleum products are loaded for shipment to the customer.

Further to the atmospheric and vacuum distillations, the heavier hydrocarbon chains present in the crude oil must undergo additional cracking and distillation and then be broken up into shorter chains through various cracking and breaking processes. During these processes, analyzers can provide real-time data for plant technicians to make informed decisions on how to achieve the best yield from these residue products. Benzene can be produced during the catalysis of the heavy fuels. NIR Spectroscopy can be used to monitor Benzene levels in fuel and other petroleum products.

Our comprehensive GUIDED WAVE NIR UV-VIS process and lab analyzer spectrometers offer optically matched components and a meticulously planned calibration approach, ensuring long-term efficiency and cost savings. Our advanced systems are engineered for continuous online operation, delivering real-time data of laboratory-grade quality, even in the harshest processing plant conditions.

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