Petroleum testing is performed on petroleum components and byproducts: crude oil, shale oil, natural gas, fuel, and upstream oil and gas. Petroleum testing services involve the analysis of crude oil fractions and composition as well as researching the fuel additives and oil contaminants.
Though petroleum testing is most commonly done within the petroleum industry, testing can have alternative uses. It can be done on petroleum waxes, monitoring food oils and the presence of petroleum contamination in the environment.
UNDERSTANDING THE PARTS OF THE PETROLEUM PRODUCTION PROCESS
Because petroleum testing is done at different parts of the production process, it is necessary to understand the different steps involved. Petroleum is produced in upstream, midstream, and downstream production processes.
In the petroleum industry, the upstream process involves the exploration and production of crude oil. Crude oil and natural gas fields can be searched for underground or underwater. Exploratory wells can then be drilled to bring the natural gas and crude oil to the surface.
The midstream process involves transportation of crude or refined petroleum products. Transportation can be done by using trucks, oil tankers, pipelines, barges, or rails. The midstream sector also includes storage and wholesale marketing of the petroleum products The pipelines that move crude oil to refineries are also used to transport refined petroleum products to downstream distributors.
The downstream process is when petroleum crude oil is refined into usable products like gasoline processed. The purified products are categorized into light distillates, middle distillates, and heavy distillates.
PETROLEUM TESTING EQUIPMENT
Petroleum can be measured for numerous properties like flash point, viscosity, volatility, oxidation stability, and cold weather stability. Different instrumentation is needed to measure different aspects of the product.
The Most Common Petroleum Testing Equipment Includes:
- Vapor pressure analyzers
- Flash point testers
- Trace metals analyzers
- Distillation equipment
- Density meters
- Octane number analyzers
- Oxidation stability analyzers
- Water content
Gas and Liquid Chromatography
Some instruments that are used to test petroleum products measure physical properties. Viscometers, flash point testers, and rheometers used in petrochemical testing measure physical properties. Other equipment is used to measure chemical properties, including mass spectrometers, elemental analyzers, sulfur analyzers, and combustion analyzers.
Depending on the setting availability and testing needs, select equipment may also be needed. For instance, specialized instruments might be necessary for in-house testing or for petroleum testing requiring rapid turnaround. Petroleum samples can also be sent out to 3rd party partners labs instead of storing and maintaining expensive in-house instruments.
ANALYTIC TOOLS REQUIRED FOR PETROLEUM TANK TESTING
Petroleum feedstock, crude oil fractions, and finished petroleum products have different requirements for petroleum testing and analysis. Hundreds of tests and protocols, including ASTM protocols, are available to use for petroleum analysis.
Gas chromatography can be used to analyze saturated fractions with conventional detectors. Gas chromatography is able to analyze hydrocarbons that have carbon numbers less than C35. Hydrocarbons that have higher carbon numbers would require specialized gas chromatography analysis.
Sensitive and selective GC detectors, can be combined with mass spectrometry. This method combines aspects of mass spectrometry with gas chromatography to identify individual components contained in a sample.
Petroleum products that are heavier-cut, including asphaltenes and resins have much higher boiling points and are analyzed using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry.
TAN: TOTAL ACID NUMBER
TAN measures acidity by determining which acid compounds are present in the petrochemical products. Expressed in KOH milligrams per gram of product, the acid number measures total amount of acidic necessary to reach an endpoint detection.
TAN is measured because petroleum products can have acidic components coming from additives or as oxidation products resulting from degradation during service. The presence of acid is a risk for metal corrosion and has the potential for hindering water separation characteristics of petroleum products.
MEASURING SATURATES, OLEFINS, AND AROMATICS
Identifying the total volume of saturates, olefins, and aromatics in petroleum fractions allows you to determine how well petroleum fractions function as feeds for catalytic reforming processes and gasoline blending elements.
The volume percent of each component is also necessary to measure fuel quality and categorize petroleum products as blending components. The concentration of aromatic hydrocarbons can influence products’ combustion characteristics, tendencies to form smoke, and how much exhaust emissions are released. This is a reason why regulations for petroleum tank testing impose limits for these characteristics.
THE IMPORTANCE OF PETROLEUM STANDARDS
ASTM’s Standard Methodologies provide a universally agreed upon set of values critical to Quality Control used at the refining stage and for determining the usefulness of a fuel product. They cover mechanical, physical, chemical, thermal, and rheological properties. To determine whether fuels meet the standards, they are tested for purity, density, composition, miscibility, thermal stability, toxicity, and compatibility with other materials.
Because of safety, quality, and environmental reasons, a vast number of specifications and test methods are available for petroleum products. Though this can make the many standards difficult to keep track of, their presence can still be beneficial. Having petroleum standards that are detailed and comprehensive makes it easier to determine whether fuel oils are high quality so they can be used safely, efficiently and can determine an overall suitability for use.
PETROLEUM TESTING SERVICES IDENTIFY OIL CONTAMINANTS
Petroleum tank testing is critical because many contaminants can create serious problems in product quality. The presence of contaminants also poses a risk for corroding equipment hindering catalysts required in the refining process, and forming deposits on metal parts.
Trace-level halogens and sulfur can be measured precisely by using combustion ion chromatography. Combustion ion chromatography enhances direct ion chromatography by oxidizing samples using high heat before further analysis.
OUR PETROLEUM TESTING SERVICES
Peak Petroleum Testing Services, inc is a national leader in petroleum testing and has been providing comprehensive analysis since our beginning in 2001. Our labs are precise and thorough, and we perform services backed by ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Accreditation. We’re here to help you 24/7 and provide emergency or rush testing as needed.
Contact us to speak with a petroleum testing expert!