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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:

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 (volume) 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.

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 10, 2024, with data from the Petroleum Supply Monthly, March 2024; preliminary data.