Refineries are made up of a number of different process units. The combination of process units that the refinery has is its configuration.

The more units a refinery has, the better its ability to run lower-quality (cheaper) crude grades, and to make a high proportion of light (higher-value) products such as diesel and gasoline.

Typically the configuration is described in terms of the most value-creating process unit at the refinery. For example, a refinery with a coker and a hydrocracker would likely be described as having a coking/hydrocracking configuration.

Some examples of common configuration definitions:

A quantitative measure of a refinery’s configuration is its complexity number. A complex refinery has a complexity number of 12-15. A simple refinery has a complexity number below 8.

The Refinery Reference Desk includes content derived from our industry experts as well as from public data sources such as company websites. Nothing herein is intended to serve as investment advice. This material is based on information that we believe to be reliable and adequately comprehensive, but we do not represent that such information is in all respects accurate or complete. McKinsey Energy Insights does not accept any liability for any losses resulting from use of the content.

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