Refining

"I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living."
John D. Rockefeller

In 1870, Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company, which would become the single largest refinery in the world. During the 1900's, a time when electricity was reducing overall crude oil demand, John D. Rockefeller envisioned automotive industry's demand for gasoline and transformed the Oil and Gas industry into what it is today.

The refining industry, also known as Downstream, encompasses companies engaged at manufacturing, refining and marketing petroleum products.    Refineries chemically process, transport and sell refined products made from crude oil.  Essentially, refining operations transform crude oil into functional products such as gasoline, fuel oils, and petroleum-based products; with the majority involving transportation fuels.

In 2012, the Census Bureau reported 801.4 billion in total shipments from US petroleum refineries.  Operations are found across 30 states.   However, roughly 44% of all US refineries are located along the Gulf Coast, with Texas operating 47 and Louisiana operating 19 refineries.  Another 18 refineries are found in California.

Key United States Industry Statistics

2002 2007
Number of Establishments 203 195
Value of Shipments ($ Millions) 193,547 580,020
Annual Payroll ($ Millions) 4,324 6,359
Total Employment 61,585 64,839
Value of Shipments per Establishment ($1,000) 953,435 2,974,461
Value of Shipments per Employee ($1,000) 3,143 8,946
Value of Shipments per $ of Payroll ($) 44.76 91.21
Payroll per Employee ($) 70,212 98,079
Employees per Establishment 303.37 332.51
Value of Shipments per Capita ($) 673 1,925
Population per Establishment 1,416,873 1,544,775
2012 Economic Census Data
Operating refineries across the US

Operating refineries across the US

Texas and Louisiana Refinery Locations

Texas and Louisiana Refinery Locations

West Coast and Rocky Mountain Refinery Locations

West Coast and Rocky Mountain Refinery Locations

Eastern Midwest

Eastern Midwest

Northern Midwest

Northern Midwest

Southern Midwest

Southern Midwest


The Refining Process

Crude oils are mixtures of thousands of different compounds called hydrocarbons. For oils to become products people user every day, refinery operations are needed.  When converting crude oil, refineries use heat and pressure to separate out the final products. Here is the three-step process all refineries utilize:

  • Separation
  • Conversion
  • Treatment

Here is a look at each one of these processes:

1. Separation

Involves piping crude oil through hot furnaces. Fractionation is the separation process of oil into different portions, according to the boiling point, called fractions. The below distillation unit images highlight crude oil being separated out at different boiling ranges.

2. Conversion

Hydrocracking Conversion Process

Hydrocracking Conversion Process

Cracking is the most common conversion refining process for breaking down larger and heavier hydrocarbon molecules into simpler and lighter ones.

3. Treatment

Treatment Facilities

Treatment Facilities

Finishing touches occur during final treatment and any unwanted contaminants are removed from the product.


Refinery End-Products

Petroleum refineries transform crude oil into various petroleum products, from fuels for transportation, to heating oils and plastics. Here is a quick look at the many products refineries create:

Light Products

Barrel of crude oil

A barrel of crude oil produces roughly 20 gallons of gasoline, 12 gallons of distillate fuel, and 4 gallons of jet fuel.

Liquid Petroleum Gas, Gasoline, Naphtha

Medium Products

Jet Fuel

Kerosene. Jet Fuel, Diesel Fuel

Heavy Products

Heavy Oils

Fuel Oils. Lubricating Oils. Asphalt and Tar, Petroleum Coke.

Petrochemicals

Synthetics, Rubber, Plastic and Pesticides


Oil Storage and Market Transportation

Once a refinery has transformed the final product, the final job is not complete. The final product must still arrive at its final destination. Here is a look at the flow of oil and gasoline after it has been refined:


Companies

Key companies within this industry:

Company Total Employees
Exxon Mobil Corporation 69,600
Chevron Corporation 51,900
Marathon Petroleum Corporation 43,800
Mobil Corporation 41,500
BP America Inc 22,100
Shell Petroleum Inc. 22,000
ConocoPhillips 16,900
Andeavor 14,300
Carlisle Companies Incorporated 12,500

Major US Independent Refiners

These refiners are unique because they have no upstream facilities, only service stations.

Company Total Employees
Suncor 12,000
Valero 10,015

Largest US Refineries

As of January 2018, the below represents the 10 largest US refineries.

Rank Corporation Company State Site Barrels per calendar day
1 Saudi Aramco Motiva Enterprises LLC Texas Port Arthur 603000
2 Marathon Petroleum Co LP Marathon Petroleum Co LP Texas Galveston Bay 571000
3 ExxonMobil Corp ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Co Texas Baytown 560500
4 Marathon Petroleum Corp Marathon Petroleum Co LP Louisiana Garyville 556000
5 ExxonMobil Corp ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Co Louisiana Baton Rouge 502500
6 PDV America Inc Citgo Petroleum Corp Louisiana Lake Charles 418000
7 BP PLC BP Products North America Inc Indiana Whiting 413500
8 ExxonMobil Corp ExxonMobil Refining and Supply Co Texas Beaumont 365644
9 Chevron Corp Chevron USA Mississippi Pascagoula 352000
10 WRB Refining LP WRB Refining LP Illinois Wood River 336000

Occupations

Here is a look at the top occupations found across this industry and the above top 10 US refineries: (Click an occupation to expand and learn more.)

  • Assemble finished products and parts. There are around 1,300 of these workers in the Oil Refining industry. You will find this worker assembling bolts, using many different types of tools, and moving heavy parts. They construct finished products and the parts that go into them. These workers use alot of tools, machines, and most importanly need their hands protected. Common job titles for this occupation are Assembler and Fabricator.

  • Operate equipment to control chemical changes or reactions in the processing of industrial products. There are around 2,000 of these workers in the Oil Refining industry. You will find this worker adding treating agents to products, cleaning production equipment and draining pump water. Common job titles are Operator and Technicians.

  • Operate entire chemical processes or system of machines. Around of 1,400 of these workers are in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers operating chemical processing equipment, collecting samples and testing chemicals. Common job titles for this position are Chemical Operator, Process Operator, and Vessel Operator.

    Employment of Chemical Plant and System Operators

  • Conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses or experiments in laboratories for quality and process control. There are around 1,000 of these workers in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers analyzing chemical compounds, conducting quality control tests and maintaining technical equipment. Common job titles for this position are Scientist and QC Chemist.

  • Perform tasks involving physical labor at construction sites. There are roughly around 8,600 of these workers found in the Oil Refining Industry. You will find these workers using hand tools, repairing drilling equipment, and transporting materials. Common job titles for this occupation are helper, Laborer, Post Framer, and Construction Worker.

  • Operate machines to crush, grind, and polish materials. There are roughly around 4,800 of these workers found in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers mixing chemicals, collecting materials and using picks. Common Job titles for this position are Batch Mixer, Fabricator, and Miller.

  • Install, maintain, and repair electrical wiring, equipment and fixtures. There are around 1,400 of these workers in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers connecting wires to breakers and transformers, making dielectric and FR safety gear important. Common Job titles for this position are Industrial Electrician, Journeyman Electrician and Wireman, and Maintenance Electrician.

    Employment of Electricians

  • Operate or tend heating equipment other than basic metal or plastic processing equipment. There are around 500 of these workers in Oil Refining. You will find these workers handling, moving objects and clearing equipment jams. Common Job titles for this position are Dry Kiln Operator, Dryer Feeder, and Overn Operator.

  • Worker activities include repairing, installing, and adjusting industrial machinery. There are around 4,600 of this occupation working in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers cutting and welding metal to repair broken metal parts. Job titles for this position are Fixer, Industrial and Master Mechanic.

    Employment of Industrial Machinery Mechanics

  • Lubricates machines, changes parts, and performs machinery maintenance. Oil Refining operatoins employ a little over 10,000 of these workers. You will find these workers cleaning machine and machine parts. Cleaning solvents, oil and metalworking fluids are a definite concern for these workers. Common Job titles for this position are Lubricator, Maintenance Man, and Oiler.

  • Machinists are the workers who utilize the machine and cutting tools.  This occupation is highly skilled at operating machinery. There are around 1,200 of this occupation working in the Oil Refining industry. You will find this worker operating machine tools to produce precision parts. Job titles for this position Gear Machinist, Machine Operator and Maintenance Machinist.

  • Operate machines designed to cut, shape and form metal. There are roughly 2,800 of these workers in Oil Refining operations. You will find these workers fabricating metal products, lifting heavy materials and working with their hands. Common job titles are Sheet Metal worker and Welder. Be sure to check out our Metal Fabrication industry educational page.

  • Operate machines to mix or blend materials. There are around 4,600 of these workers in OIl Refining operations. You will find these workers mixing substances to create chemical solutions, measuring ingredients and moving objects. Common job titles are Blender, Machiner Operator, and Mixer.

  • Collect data on work environments for analysis . Implement programs designed to limit chemical, physical, biological, and ergonomic risks to workers. There are 880 of these workers in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers testing workplaces for chemical hazards, maintaining personal protective equipment and monitoring use of safety equipment. Common job titles for this position are Safety Professional, Safety Specialist, and Safety EHS leader.

  • Operate machines preparing products for storage or shipment. There are around 1,400 of this occupation working in the Oil Refining Industry. You will find these workers inspecting products and removing packaged items. Job titles for this position are Machine Operator, Packaging Operator, and Fabrication Technician.

    Employment of Packaging and Filling Machine Operators

  • Operate equipment used for applying concrete, asphalt, or equipment used for tamping gravel, dirt, and other materials. There are around 1,100 of these workers in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers operating machines, cleaning machines, and spreading concrete or other aggregate mixtures. Common job titles are Operator, Paver Operator, and Roller Operator.

  • Operate petroleum refining or processing units. There are around 20,000 of these workers in the Oil Refining Industry. You will find these workers monitoring gauges, opening valves to regualte the flow of oil, and operating manifold/pumping systems. Common Job titles for this position are Gauger, Head Operator, Pumper, and Refinery Operator

    Employment of Petroleum Pump System Operators

  • Assemble, install, alter, and repair pipelines. There around 700 of these workers in Oil Refining. You will find these workers hammering pipes, securing pipes, and cutting piples. Common job titles for this position are Pipe Fitter, Pipe Welder, and Steamfitter.

    Employment of Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

  • Operate a variety of drills to remove underground oil and gas. They also remove core samples for testing during oil and gas exploration. There are around 540 of these workers in Oil Refining. You will find this worker connecting sections of dril pipe, operating drilling equipment, and raising drill pipes. Common job titles for this occupation are Drill Operator, Driller, and Oil Rig Operator

    Employment of Rotary Drill Operators, Oil and Gas

  • Use hand-welding, flame-cutting, hand soldering, and brazing equipment to weld/join metal components, fill holes, indentations, or seams of fabricated metal products. There are around 1,100 of these workers are employed in the Oil Refining industry. You will find these workers welding components in flat, vertical or overhead positions. Common Job titles for this position are Maintenance Welder, Mig Welder, and Welder/Fabricator

    Employment of Welders, Cutters, Solderers, and Brazers

  • Operate welding, soldering or brazing machines that weld, braze, or heat treat metal products. Oil Refining Operations employ around 1,100 of these workers. You will find these workers adding material to work pieces, joining metal components, and annealing finished work pieces. Common Job titles for this position are Fabricator, Mig Welder, Spot Welder, Fitter-Welder, and Braze Operators.


Turnarounds

A peak period for refineries occurs during planned maintenance schedules. Fall, winter, and spring seasons bring weather changes, along with heightened employment and work activities across many US refineries. Planned shutdowns are required for routine maintenance, such as furnace and tank cleaning, abrasive blasting, catalyst removal, insulation removal, draining pipes, and a lot of cutting/welding.

Plant turnarounds require careful planning, scheduling, and may present rippling effects across supply chains. Most importantly, extra safety precautions need adhered to because of deviated routine operations.

For all those working in or supporting refineries, we thought it would be helpful highlighting peak shutdown periods, specifically for Crude distillation. An entire turnaround schedule is shown below for refineries across US regions.

  • Gulf Coast Turnarounds

    January to April are the most active months for turnarounds on the gulf coast, with February being the most active. Due to the refinery output of this region, there is a high number of outages.

    Thousand Barrels Per Day As Percentage of Capacity
    Month Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages 2008-17 average planned outages Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages
    December 8 31 61 0% 0%
    January 238 756 445 2% 7%
    February 646 785 673 6% 8%
    March 569 567 543 6% 5%
    April 293 379 310 3% 4%
  • East Coast Turnarounds

    April is the most active time for shutdowns on the east coast.

    Thousand Barrels Per Day As Percentage of Capacity
    Month Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages 2008-17 average planned outages Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages
    December 0 41 73 0% 3%
    January 0 41 80 0% 3%
    February 0 218 119 0% 16%
    March 68 311 186 5% 23%
    April 193 95 90 14% 7%
    May 90 4 46 7% 0%
    June 0 0 38 0% 0%
  • Midwest Turnarounds

    March and April are peak months for turnarounds.

    Thousand Barrels Per Day As Percentage of Capacity
    Month Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages 2008-17 average planned outages Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages
    December 0 0 60 0% 0%
    January 0 0 54 0% 0%
    February 82 0 100 2% 0%
    March 500 187 315 12% 4%
    April 294 141 306 7% 3%
    May 61 116 173 1% 3%
    June 8 26 91 0% 1%
  • Rock Mountain Turnarounds

    March and April are peak months for refineries located across the Rocky Mountain States.

    Thousand Barrels Per Day As Percentage of Capacity
    Month Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages 2008-17 average planned outages Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages
    December 0 0 3 0% 0%
    January 0 0 3 0% 0%
    February 0 0 8 0% 0%
    March 74 0 42 10% 0%
    April 118 18 58 16% 2%
    May 47 55 25 6% 8%
    June 48 20 21 6% 3%
  • West Coast Turnarounds

    January and February are peak months for refinery turnarounds.

    Thousand Barrels Per Day As Percentage of Capacity
    Month Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages 2008-17 average planned outages Dec-17 to Jun-18 planned outages Dec-16 to Jun-17 planned outages
    December 0 147 27 0% 5%
    January 278 163 92 9% 5%
    February 226 259 129 7% 8%
    March 0 107 98 0% 3%
    April 195 0 149 6% 0%
    May 38 120 156 1% 4%
    June 40 195 88 1% 6%

Refining Safety

Refining oil and gas often involves multifaceted equipment, extreme temperatures and the need for handling hazardous materials. Inherent hazards ranging from chemicals, to explosions, and fires are constant concerns for those working at a refinery.

Thankfully, refineries are the least ranked Oil and Gas sub-industry for experiencing injuries.  For every 100 employees, there are only .5 incidents, validation that safety managers are hard at work keeping workers safe.

"Nothing is of greater importance that the conservation of human life."
Former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge

Nothing is greater than conserving life, especially for those who choose to make a living working across US refineries. As Rockefeller was quoted above, every man is owed that opportunity. When one is making a living, it should be done safely.

At MCR Safety, We Protect People! Let us keep you safe from the many hazards encountered at a refinery.

Common Refining Hazards

Find the right MCR Safety product that protects you against these common hazards.


Chemicals and Liquids

Working around acids, additives, corrosives, solvents and wastewater puts you in direct contact with toxic substances, such as citric and HCI Acids, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, benzene, and hydrogen fluoride.  Be sure to check out our chemical permeation database.

Learn More About Chemicals and Liquids Protection

Crush and Impact

56% of all recordable incidents in 2014 for Oil & Gas were attributed to "struck by" and "caught between” objects.  Refinery work will quickly bang up a worker’s back-of-hands.  Impact protection is a worker’s best friend.  Are you ready for the new standard?

Learn More About Crush and Impact Protection

Sharp Objects

Cuts and lacerations make up 7 percent of all oil and gas injury claims. Metal shim is used in refineries for mounting motors and pumps. It is sharp, so you’ll need some safety gear that protects you from lacerations. 

Learn More About Sharp Objects Protection

Contact MCR Safety Today

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