To put it plain and simply, machinery is everything when it comes to refining oil. The more efficient the refinery, the more the greater the capacity. The greater the oil refinery capacity, the faster oil companies can turn a profit. Oil must go through three or more steps before it is fully processed, and the quantity, quality, and how advanced the technology—the more oil a refinery can process per year.
If you weren’t sure what you were looking at, you might mistake an oil refinery for an expansive work of modern art. The Reliance Jamnagar refinery in India is currently the largest refinery in the world taking up an expansive 7,400 acres. The facility took 3 years and over $6 billion dollars to build. With an oil refinery capacity of 1.24 million barrels per day, it was a machinery investment that was well worth the wait.
While the average refinery is closer to half that size, if a refinery is too small—it won’t be able to keep up with local demand. This leaves surrounding countries having to invest in costly importing, and rules out the ability to export. That being said, sometimes refineries largest companies are somewhere across the globe.
Depending on their needs, an oil refinery may have more than one chemical plant. This varies depending on the type of product that needs to be refined, such as jet fuel, diesel, refinery gas, propane, chemical feedstocks, oils, petroleum, and coke. When the demand for one is higher than the rest, it can create a bottle neck if the machine and systems are not adequately mapped out. This requires an innovative design, that factors in fluctuating needs over time.
Not all oil products are refined in the same manner, meaning that processing technology can vary greatly. On top of that, it can be quite costly to upgrade or switch a refinery from a dated process to a more modern process. Just a few of the processing technologies include:
While the refinery process simply takes the time it takes, advances in technology are helping to streamline the process and minimize bottlenecks and delays. Everything from proactive sensors and alerts, to real time reporting and analytics, and remote operating tools create new and powerful efficiencies. New and exciting technology and tools are being tested and implemented at a breakneck pace, all with the goal of maintaining and improving oil refinery capacity.
The demand for oil continues to increase, meaning refineries need to evolve to meet or exceed demand. This is why, even when production is sufficient, oil refinery capacity is always of top priority.