Synthetic Crude Oil

Synthetic crude oil, also known as Syncrude, is a type of crude oil that is produced from a mixture of hydrocarbons through a process called upgrading. This process typically involves the conversion of heavy or extra-heavy crude oil, oil sands, bitumen, kerogen or shale oil and other substances such as coal, or derived from gas to liquid conversion. Syncrude is Hydrocarbon oil that can be used in refineries to produce valuable refined petroleum products.

As extra heavy oils are upgraded or diluted into a light oil of API gravity near 30 by removing most of the heavy fractions and Sulfur. The characteristics of Synthetic crude depend upon the processes applied in the upgrading.

Synthetic crude may also be mixed, as a diluent, with heavy oil to create synbit. Synbit is more viscous than synthetic crude, but can also be a less expensive alternative for transporting heavy oil to a conventional petroleum refinery

Synthetic Crude Oil Vs Crude oil

Synthetic crude oil and crude oil are both types of petroleum, but they are produced and processed differently.

Crude oil is a naturally occurring substance that is extracted from underground reservoirs using drilling techniques. It is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons and other organic compounds, and its composition can vary depending on the location where it is extracted.

Synthetic crude oil, on the other hand, is a man-made product that is derived from oil sands or oil shale through a process called upgrading. This process involves removing impurities from the raw material and converting it into a purer form of oil that is similar in composition to conventional crude oil.

Properties of Synthetic Crude Oil

1. Density

Synthetic crude oil typically has a density between 800 and 950 kg/m³, which is comparable to the density of conventional crude oil.

3. Viscosity

Synthetic crude oil tends to have a higher viscosity than conventional crude oil, which means it is thicker and more difficult to flow.

4. Sulphur Content

Synthetic crude oil generally has a lower sulphur content than conventional crude oil, which makes it less polluting when burned.

5. Pour Point

The pour point of synthetic crude oil is typically higher than that of conventional crude oil, which means it can solidify at lower temperatures.

6. Carbon Content

Synthetic crude oil typically has a higher carbon content than conventional crude oil, which means it can produce more carbon dioxide when burned.

Uses of Synthetic Crude Oil

1. Fuel Production

Similar to conventional crude oil, synthetic crude oil can be refined into various fuel products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil.

2. Petrochemical Feedstock

Syncrude can serve as a feedstock for petrochemical industries, where it can be transformed into chemicals, plastics, synthetic materials, and other valuable products.

3. Lubricants and Waxes

Syncrude can be processed to produce high-quality lubricants and waxes, which are used in automotive, industrial, and household applications.

Advantages of Synthetic Crude Oil

1. Resource Diversification

Syncrude provides an alternative to conventional crude oil, thus diversifying the global energy mix and reducing dependency on petroleum reserves.

2. Energy Security

Countries with abundant non-petroleum resources like oil sands or oil shale can develop their domestic industries to produce Syncrude, reducing their reliance on oil imports and increasing energy security.

3. Quality Control

The upgrading process of producing Syncrude allows for better control over its properties, such as sulphur content and viscosity, enabling the production of cleaner and more consistent fuels.

4. Environmentally Friendly

Although the extraction and upgrading processes of non-petroleum resources can have significant environmental impacts, some of these can be mitigated with proper regulation and technology. Additionally, the use of biomass as a source for Syncrude can result in a lower carbon footprint, as it is derived from renewable resources.

5. Economic Benefits

Developing synthetic crude oil industries can create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and promote technological innovation in countries with abundant non-petroleum resources.

Top References

  2. Fuels and lubricants handbook: technology, properties, performance, and Testing, Edited by George E.Totten


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