Implications of testing of Petroleum Products

The importance of the use of petroleum products in today’s era can be seen and realized almost everywhere. The vast range of petroleum and petrochemical products being used in almost every sphere of activities is proof enough of the fact that such products have become indispensable for the existence of mankind. Although the history of the usage of petroleum products dates back to medieval periods, it is only recently that the importance of quality of such products has been realized. This is mainly because of the wide applications of those products like in household purposes, industries, automobiles, aviation sector, etc. and also because of the improvement in the refining processes developed as a result of evolution of new technologies.

Petroleum literally means ‘Rock Oil’ and implies a host of hydrocarbon-rich compounds that have accumulated in subterranean reservoirs. The large number of petroleum products exhibits a great degree of diversity in terms of composition, properties, and end-use. In order to categorize these compounds into different classes, it is vital to characterize each and every type according to their properties. This can be done through proper physical and chemical testingof petroleum products. Some of the common physical tests of petroleum products include boiling point/range, density, specific gravity, viscosity, Flash point, Pour point, Octane number, Cetane number etc. Some of the common chemical testing parameters of petro-products include elemental composition in terms of Carbon, Hydrogen, Sulfur, Phosphorus, Nitrogen, Calorific value estimation, Ash content etc. Broadly speaking, the main aim of testing of petroleum products is to address the following issues:

* Characterization of the key properties necessary from the point of view of use in refineries.

* Identification and quantification of contaminants like metal, alloys etc. which can impair the functioning of refining equipments.

* Determination of chemical composition in order to assess the environmental impact of the particular petroleum product.

* Ascertaining the commercial value of a product.

Apart from the determination of the above-mentioned bulk properties of petroleum products, microscopic analysis also holds paramount importance especially in preventive maintenance activities. In this context, Ferrography needs a well-deserved mention. Also known as wear-particle/wear-debris analysis and machine condition monitoring, ferrography is the microscopic examination of used industrial fluids or lubricants for the presence of ferrous and non-ferrous particles. The presence of such particles indicates mechanical wear of industrial equipmentsand such an analysis constitute a tool for preventive maintenance of industrial machines. Assessment of the conditions of lubricating oils is as vital and synonymous to the checking of health of an individual enabled by blood testing. Lubricants are the life-line of industrial machineries. Analysis of lubricants has three aspects: type and amount of contaminants, physical conditions of the lubricant like viscosity, and assessment of machine wear in terms of metal composition. The key objectives of Ferrography Analysis can be summarized as follows:

  • Extending equipment life.
  • Historic trending to help reduce maintenance and operation costs.
  • Avoiding or reducing sudden downtime costs.
  • Following the guiding principle of ‘Preventive Maintenance’ which is to counter the problem before it gets too late.
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