Process units

A refinery is a plant that includes a number of different processing units. Each of these plays a role in the overall process of converting crude oil into finished petroleum products. A typical refinery will have a dozen or more of these processing units. These fall into four broad categories:

  • Separation units - Some process units separate a hydrocarbon mixture into its components through distillation or extraction. The most common separation units are atmospheric distillation and vacuum distillation
  • Conversion units - Conversion units take individual hydrocarbon streams and convert them to other hydrocarbons by changing their size and chemical structure. Examples are the coker, FCC, and alkylation unit
  • Treating units - A number of process unites improve a hydrocarbon stream by removing impurities and changing some chemical properties, but without changing the refinery's product yield. Good examples of this are the hydrotreaters
  • Supporting process units - This includes utilities and and other non-hydrocarbon processing units

Typical process units in a refinery include:

McKinsey uses cookies to improve site functionality, provide you with a better browsing experience, and to enable our partners to advertise to you. Detailed information on the use of cookies on this Site, and how you can decline them, is provided in our cookie policy. By using this Site or clicking on "OK", you consent to the use of cookies.