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Oil and petroleum products explained Refining crude oil

What is a refinery?

Petroleum refineries convert crude oil and other liquids into many petroleum products that people use every day. Most refineries focus on producing transportation fuels. On average, U.S. refineries produce, from a 42-gallon barrel of crude oil, about 19 to 20 gallons of motor gasoline; 11 to 13 gallons of distillate fuel most of which is sold as diesel fuel; and 3 to 4 gallons of jet fuel. More than a dozen other petroleum products are also produced in refineries including liquids the petrochemical industry uses to make a variety of chemicals and plastics. The amount of individual products produced varies from month to month and year to year as refineries adjust production to meet market demand and to maximize profitability. Learn more in Refining crude oil—inputs and outputs

Refineries operate 24/7

A refinery runs 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and requires a large number of employees. A refinery can occupy as much land as several hundred football fields.

graphic illustration of a barrel to show the major products that are produced from refining a barrel of crude oil

Click to enlarge

A night photo of the Pascagoula Refinery, Mississippi

A photo of the Pascagoula Refinery in Mississippi

Source: Stock photography (copyrighted)

Last updated: April 13, 2023, with most recent data available at the time of update.