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de Distillation Curves
Crude Oil Distillation Curves
Types of distillation curves:
1. TBP (True Boiling Point) distillation curve.

2. ASTM (D86/D1160) distillation curve.

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3. EFV (Equilibrium Flash Vaporization)

TBP Curve: is the most useful.
- However, no standard test exists for measuring the TBP.
- Most common TBP test is Hempel & D-285.
(Neither specifies # of stages or reflex ratio used).
- Trend is toward 15/5 distillation (D-2892).
ASTM Curve: is more common because it is simple to
determine in the laboratory.
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TBP/ASTM distillation curves: are the most

important characterization properties of the
crude/intermediate/product streams.
Both TBP, ASTM distillation curves are measured
at 1 atm pressure. In both these cases, the boiling
points of various volume fractions are being
The basic difference between TBP curve and
ASTM distillation curve is that while TBP curve is
measured using batch distillation apparatus
consisting of no less than 100 trays and very high
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reflux ratio, the ASTM distillation is measured in a
single stage apparatus without any reflux.
Therefore, the ASTM does not indicate a good
separation of various components.

Construction of the TBP & API Curves:

When a refining company evaluates its own crude
oils to determine the most desirable processing
sequence to obtain the required products, its own
laboratories will provide data concerning the
distillation and processing of the oil and its
In many cases, information not readily available
is desired concerning the processing qualities of
crude oils. In such instances, true boiling point
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(TBP) and gravity-midpercent curves can be
developed from U.S. Bureau of Mines crude
petroleum analysis data sheets (Fig. 3.5).

The major deficiency in a Bureau of Mines assay

is the lack of information concerning the low-
boiling components.
The Bureau of Mines analysis is reported in two
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1 The first is the portion of the distillation
performed at atmospheric pressure and up to
527F (275C) end point.
2 The second at 40 mm Hg total pressure to
572F (300C) end point.
The distillation temperatures reported in the
analysis must be corrected to 760 mm Hg
pressure using charts developed by Esso
Research and Engineering Company (Figure 3.6).

Figure 3.6 Boiling point at 760 mmHg versus

boiling point at 40 mmHg.
The 572F (300C) end point at 40 mmHg
pressure corresponds to 790F (421C) at 760
Estimates of the shape of the TBP curve above
790F (421C) can be obtained by plotting the
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distillation temperature versus percentage distilled
on probability graph paper and extrapolating to
1100F (593C). (See Fig. 3.7.) The data points
above 790F (421C) can be transferred to the TBP

Figure 3.7 Crude distillation curve

The gravity mid-percent curve is plotted on the
same chart with the TBP curve. The gravity should
be plotted on the average volume percent of the
fraction, as the gravity is the average of the
gravities from the first to the last drops in the
fraction (Figure 3.8).
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Benchmark Oils
Benchmark oils are used as references when
pricing oils. There are approximately 161 different
benchmark oils, of which the main three West
Texas Intermediate, Brent Crude, and Dubai Crude.
Crude oil is the most actively traded commodity
and is bought and sold in contracts. A contract
trades in units of 1,000 barrels of oil and
benchmarks help to determine the price of a barrel
of oil in a contract.
West Texas Intermediate (WTI)
WTI is probably the most famous of the bench
mark oils. It is a light, sweet crude with an API
gravity of 39.6 degrees. That gives it a specific
gravity of 0.827, which means that at 60 degrees
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Fahrenheit, WTI is only 8/10 as heavy as water. It
contains 0.24% sulfur and is refined in the
Midwest. It comes from the Southwestern United

The production of WTI crude oil is on the decline.

WTI commands a premium of about a $5 - $6 per-
barrel over the OPEC Basket price and about $1 -
$2 per - barrel over Brent.
Brent Crude
Brent is actually a combination of crude oil from
15 different oil fields in the Brent and North Sea
Brent Crude, named after a goose, comes from
the North Sea. It is a light, sweet crude with an API
gravity of 38.06 and a specific gravity of 0.835,
making it slightly heavier than West Texas
Intermediate. The sulfur content is 0.37%. The
price of Brent Crude is used to set prices for
roughly 2/3 of the worlds oil. It is mostly refined in
Northwest Europe and is also called Brent Blend,
London Brent, and Brent petroleum. The Brent field
is located in the East Shetland Basin, halfway
between Scotland and Norway. Prices for other
crude oils are generally priced as a differential to
Brent, i.e., Brent +/ -.
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Brent crude is generally priced at about $3 - $4
per-barrel premium to the OPEC Basket price and
about a $1- $2 / barrel discount to WTI.
Dubai Crude
Dubai Crude is light and sour, with an API gravity
of 31 degrees and a specific gravity of 0.871. Its
sulfur content is 2%, making it 6 times more sour
than Brent Crude and 8 times more sour than West
Texas Intermediate. Dubai Crude is also known as
OPEC Reference Basket (ORB)
This is not specific crude, but rather is a weighted
average of petroleum that comes from OPEC
countries. There are currently 11 different oils
combined into the ORB. It averages an API gravity,
with the present combination, of 32.7 degrees and
has a sulfur content of 1.77%. It was recently
changed to reflect the average quality of crude oil
in OPEC Member Countries. The change decreased
the API and increased the sulfur content of the
Minas: Also referred to as Sumatran Light and
comes from the island of Sumatra. It is a light,
sweet crude. The API gravity is approximately 35
and the specific gravity is 0.8498. It has a sulfur
content of only 0.08%. It is produced at a rate of
approximately 420,000 barrels per day.
Tapis: Often referred to as the Worlds Costliest
Oil and comes from a single field in Malaysia. Its
value comes from the fact that WTI and Brent
Crude are difficult and expensive to export to Asia
and because it is of extremely high quality.
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Tapis has an API gravity of 45.2 degrees and a
sulfur content of 0.0343%. These are exceptional
numbers, indicating that Tapis is very light and
very sweet. Unfortunately, output from the Tapis
field has been falling steadily since 1998.

Russian Export Blend

This type of oil has been the standard for Russian

crude oil. This is also a perfect example of sour oil
because of its high amount of sulfur. Russian
expert blend oil is heavily exported to Italy and
Bonny Light
Bonny light comes from Nigeria and is a light,
sweet oil. It has an API gravity of 32.9 and a sulfur
content of 0.16%.
Isthmus-34 Light
This is a sour crude with and API gravity of 33.74
degrees and a sulfur content of 1.45%. It is
produced in Mexico. Though Mexico is not a part of
OPEC, this oil was once part of the OPEC Reference
Basket. It was removed in from the ORB when it
was changed in 2005.