The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Video: Advanced Technology Drives U.S. Refining

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 31, 2017

One of the most technologically advanced industries in the world, the U.S. refining sector is the essential link between America’s crude oil wealth and the fuels and countless consumer products we depend on every day.

Refining is a complex process that requires sophisticated equipment and a highly skilled workforce. The video below breaks down the steps and processes that are used to turn crude oil into fuels and other products that are a big part of everyone’s day:

As you can see, refineries produce gasoline, diesel, kerosene, heavy oil and other valuable products. The country’s 141 refineries – with a crude distillation capacity of approximately 18 million barrels per day in 2016 – use a number of processes to make some of these components more useful. Nothing is wasted, not even the heavy residue, which is used to make asphalt for paving roads.

One of the key processes noted in the video is treating, where impurities like sulfur are removed. Today’s low-sulfur diesel fuel contains 99.7 percent less sulfur than standard diesel, which is a big part of the reason U.S. air pollutants have fallen by 70 percent since 1970, even as vehicle miles traveled have increased by more than 180 percent.

Frank Macchiarola, API downstream group director:

“U.S. refineries not only provide the gasoline and diesel that fuels our American economic engine, but also provide us with the chemicals essential to the medicines, cosmetics, computers, cell phones, plastics and many other products that help raise our standard of living. In short, U.S. refineries are indispensable in providing meaningful value to all of our lives.”


Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.