What is a refinery?
A refinery relieves crude oil from rail, boat, or pipeline. The refinery takes that crude oil, and breaks it down to usable components such as diesel, jet fuel, gasoline, and feed stocks for chemical plants. Think of a refinery as just one huge process.
Key concepts of a refinery are distillation and heat integration. Distillation is the separating of components by the difference in boiling points. Process material is fed into the tower/column and into the sump. The sump is a liquid level in the bottom of the tower. Heat is applied to the material in the sump, which causes the liquid to boil. Different chemicals have different boiling points. The material that is lighter, which means that it boils at a lower temperature than the other chemicals. The lighter materials travel up the tower leaving the rest of the material in the sump.
A quick simplified example to break it down for you a little better: Unrefined diesel enters the column and collects in the tower sump. Gasoline boils first and races up to the top of the tower. This tower has a side draw. On the side draw, jet fuel is pulled off. Gasoline boils at a lower temperature than jet fuel, and jet fuel boils at a lower temperature than diesel. Now in the bottom of the sump we are left with an unfinished diesel. The diesel is removed from the sump to control the level in the sump, and that is how we distill diesel
That was a simplified breakdown of the distillation process to give you an idea of a real world example.
Which is a better job, a refinery Process Operator, or a chemical plant Process Operator? Truth is it depends, the actual site,the company the job, and the actual unit you’ll be working in are the biggest deciding factors. Thats why I say to hold out for one over the other. Apply to every job you can find. I even did the work of finding the web sites that you will need to apply to. Just click Process Operator Jobs on the home page, and it will take you to job searches.
I’m including a video from YouTube that walks you though the refinery process and has some good animation to go with the terminology.