What We Do
Oil tankers bring crude oil from countries in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. The oil is discharged by tankers at the single buoy mooring (SBM), about 2.5 kilometres off the coast near Prospecton and enters the refinery through an underground pipeline. The oil is stored in tanks, from where it is fed into the refinery. SAPREF manages the SBM on behalf of industry. Eighty percent of our country’s crude oil is supplied to industry via the SBM.
Fractionation: In the first step of the production chain, 20 000 litres of crude oil pass through SAPREF's two crude distillation units every minute of every day. The crude oil is heated and distilled in these units, breaking the oil into different constituents, known as fractions. This process is known as fractionation. Fractionation is the physical separation of crude oil components by boiling.
The heaviest fractions condense at the hottest temperatures near the bottom of the distillation column and provide feedstock for the making of bitumen. Fractions condensing around the middle of the column include kerosene for jet fuel and gas oil for heating and diesel engines. The lightest fractions condense in the coolest temperatures near the top of the distillation column and include products such as propane, butane and naphtha.
Conversion: Some of the heavier fractions are upgraded further in SAPREF’s catalytic cracker, which uses advanced technology to bring heavy fraction molecules into contact with a hot catalyst in a process that “cracks” the molecules to produce new hydrocarbon combinations. This is the start of the process of conversion. Conversion involves changing the chemical composition of crude oil components. These combinations are used for petrol and diesel. The gas separation plant processes the petrol and liquid petroleum gases produced by the cracker.
SAPREF makes 10 main products in 46 different grades.
The refinery’s products include:
- jet fuel
- lubricating oil
- liquid petroleum gas
- marine fuel oil
- chemical feed stocks.
The products are used in a variety of areas that are essential to modern living, as the diagram illustrates.