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Downstream (oil industry)

The downstream oil sector is a term commonly used to refer to the refining of crude oil, and the selling and distribution of natural gas and products derived from crude oil. Such products include liquified petroleum gas (LPG), gasoline or petrol, jet fuel, diesel oil, other fuel oils, asphalt and petroleum coke.


Major sectors of the oil industry

The oil industry is often divided into three major sectors: upstream, midstream and downstream. However, midstream operations are usually simply included in the downstream category.

Upstream sector

Main article: Extraction of petroleum

The upstream sector includes the searching for potential underground or underwater oil and gas fields, drilling of exploratory wells, and subsequently operating the wells that recover and bring the crude oil and/or raw natural gas to the surface. The upstream sector is also known as the exploration and production (E&P) sector.

Midstream sector

The midstream sector processes, stores, markets and transports commodities such as crude oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids (NGLs)[1] such as ethane, propane and butane.

Downstream sector

The downstream sector includes oil refineries[2], petrochemical plants, petroleum product distribution, retail outlets and natural gas distribution companies. The downstream industry touches consumers through thousands of products such as gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil, asphalt, lubricants, synthetic rubber, plastics, fertilizers, antifreeze, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, natural gas and propane.

Byproduct sulfur

Crude oil is a mixture of hundreds of hydrocarbons, including many which contain sulfur and refining the crude oil includes converting most of that sulfur into gaseous hydrogen sulfide. Raw natural gas also contains gaseous hydrogen sulfide and sulfur-containing mercaptans, which are removed in natural gas processing plants before the gas is distributed to consumers. The hydrogen sulfide removed in the refining and processing of crude oil and natural gas is subsequently converted into byproduct elemental sulfur. In fact, the vast majority of the 64,000,000 metric tons of sulfur produced worldwide in 2005 was byproduct sulfur from refineries and natural gas processing plants.[3][4]

See also


  1. ^ Natural Gas Processing
  2. ^ Gary, J.H. and Handwerk, G.E. (1984). Petroleum Refining Technology and Economics, 2nd Edition, Marcel Dekker, Inc. ISBN 0-8247-7150-8. 
  3. ^ Sulfur production report by the United States Geological Survey
  4. ^ Discussion of recovered byproduct sulfur
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Downstream_(oil_industry)". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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