How Oil Refining Works

By: Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

Oil Fields Image Gallery Refineries turn crude oil into products such as gasoline and plastics. See more pictures of oil fields and refining.   
Photo courtesy Phillips Petroleum Company

­I­n movies and television shows -- Giant, Oklahoma Crude, Armageddon, Beverly Hillbillies -- we have seen images of thick, black crude oil gushing out of the ground or a drilling platform.­

But when you pump the gasoline for your ­car, you've probably noticed that it is clear.


And there are so many other products that come from oil, including crayons, plastics, heating oil, jet fuel, kerosene, synthetic fibers and tires.­

­How is it possible to start with crude oil and end up with gasoline and all of these other products?­

In­ this article, we'll examine the chemistry and technology involved in refining crude oil to produce all of these different things.

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