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Product Knowledge and Quality Control

Different combinations of hydrocarbon substances produce products with different physical

characteristics. Refineries seek to optimise the yield and value of products from crude oil. The
terminals job is to distribute products with the right characteristics and quality required by customers
through the distribution supply chain. Quality is defined as conformance to requirements. It is not an
absolute measure but is a constantly moving target for example environmental issues.

Key Product Characteristics Related to Safety Considerations

Some product characteristics, although they may not be included on marketing product specification
sheets are nevertheless important from a product storage and handling perspective. They are density,
flash point, auto ignition point, explosive limits, viscosity, vapour density, vapour pressure (volatility),
lead content, conductivity, coefficient of expansion, and cleanliness (contamination).
Density, Relative Density, and Vapour Density
Density is defined as the mass (weight in vacuum) of liquid per unit volume at 15 C (standard
reference temperature) and has a unit of kg/l. Density is important for legislation, fuel economy, and
safety. Density does not directly affect engine performance but can affect fuel economy. It affects the
air/fuel ratio at which an engine operates (emissions) and the calculation of load size and range
(aircraft refuelling). Accurate determination of the density of products is necessary for the conversion
of measured volumes at observed temperature to volumes at standard reference temperature of 15C
or 60F (relative density). Density is a factor in determining the suction conditions of pump as well as
when considering loads on tank walls, floors and tank base foundations, and compound wall.
Vapours from volatile petroleum products are heavier than air, so they tend to spread at
ground level and into depressions. The study of vapour paths from tank vents and similar has been
given much considerations by international bodies responsible for safety. Vapour density is a factor
when considering the classification of hazardous areas.
There are various methods used in refineries for determination of density and relative density
(specific gravity). The most common method which can be used in storage depots is the Hydrometer
Method. International standard ANSI/ASTM D1298, describes how to perform a density test.
Explosive Limits
Explosive limits is important for safety. When a flammable liquid is vaporised to form a mixture in
air, and a source is applied, it may burn with explosive speed. The mixture will only combust if the
proportion of vapour to air exceed a certain limit. Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) is the lowest

concentration of flammable gas in air at atmosphere pressure capable of being ignited. Upper
Explosive Limit (UEL) is the highest concentration of flammable gas in air at atmospheric pressure
capable of being ignited. A concentration of flammable gas in air at atmospheric pressure, above
which combustion will not occur. Any mixture within these limits will combust. The limits vary from
product to product, but for hydrocarbons the typical range is from 1 12 % vapour to air.
Flash Point and Auto Ignition Temperature
Petroleum products will burn in air under certain conditions of temperature and vapour mixture. Flash
point is defined as the lowest temperature of a liquid sample at which application of a test flame
causes vapour of the sample to ignite under specific test conditions of test. Flash point is important for
legislation and safety. Flash point is a vital measure for safe handling of hydrocarbon products, and
can also be used to check for cross contamination. Products are classified according to Flash Point and
these classifications carry legal consequences. Below is the classification of petroleum products by
flash point.
Class I

Liquids which have a

Class II and Class III liquids may be sub-divided further.

flash point less than 21C.

Liquids which have a

Class II (1) Liquids handled and stored below their flash

Class II

flash point 21C to 55C

Class III

Liquids which have a
flash point greater than
55C up to and including

point temperature.
Class II (2) Liquids handled ad stored at or above their
flash point temperature.
Class III products may be similarly sub divided.
Liquids with flash points above 100C are not classified.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a separate class (Class

0) are not classified.

Auto Ignition Temperature is the lowest temperature at which a substance (solid, liquid or
gaseous) ignites and maintains a self-sustained combustion in the absence of a spark or flame. An
interesting observation is that the autoignition points run opposite to the expected flammability of a
product. That is a heavier product may have a lower auto ignition point. The auto ignition
temperature of most petroleum products is above 200C.
Vapour Pressure (Volatility)
Vapour pressure (volatility) is defined as the amount of vapour given off by a liquid at a given
temperature and measured as pressure increases. The higher the temperature the more rapidly the
vaporisation occurs. Vapour pressure determines how much vaporisation occurs for any particular
temperature (vapour losses) and thus the flammability risk. If pressure in a pump system is not equal
to or greater than vapour pressure, the liquid will flash into a gas, hence it will not able to pump.
Besides, it is also likely to cause vapour lock in a vehicle.

The laboratory method of measuring the vapour pressure of petrol in products is by means of
the Reid Vapour Pressure Bomb. The standard test method is covered by ANSI/ASTM D 323. Results
are expressed as Reid Vapour Pressure (RVP) which differs slightly from true vapour pressure (TVP)
due to some small sample vaporisation and the preserved water vapour and air in the confined space.
Viscosity is a measure of resistance to movement or flow within a liquid and it is temperature
dependent. Viscosity is important for pump ability and performance. It affects the operation of fuel
injection equipment from the customers perspective meanwhile it is important for line sizing and
pumping from an operational perspective. Very low viscosity can cause excessive wear, reduced
power and/or hot start problems. Too high viscosity can cause flow restriction, lead to poor
combustion and excessive crankcase dilution as the fuel is hard to atomise.
The rate of flow of a product in a pipeline will depend upon its viscosity. Product movement
of high viscous liquids at low temperature required special design of pumps of high cost requiring
large capacity motors with consequent high power consumption. Product become less viscous with
temperature increases. This is taken into consideration when pumping heavy fuel oils and bitumen
when product heating can be used to lower (reduce) viscosities to economic advantage.
The standard test method for measuring the kinematic viscosity of petroleum products is
ANSI-ASTM D445 which equates to IP 71.
Pour Point
At low temperatures, certain products, because of composition will no longer flow. The product
cannot be then be pumped until heated sufficiently. Pour point is defined as the lowest temperature,
expressed as a multiple of 3C (5F), at which the oil is observed to flow when cooled and examined
under prescribed conditions. A suitable test method is described under ANSI/ASTM D97 which
equates to IP15.
Conductivity is a measure of fluids ability to carry an electrical charge and is a vial to allow any static
charge to dissipate. It is the inverse of resistance and generally the purer the oil will have lower
conductivity. In between, the chemical composition affects the conductivity, for example the polar
species improve the conductivity, any metallic compound or trace metals. Conductivity is increased
by water or other contaminants such as dirt. It is measured by using a portable safe meter and is
temperature dependent. The units are Pico Siemens per meter (S/m) or often abbreviated to CF
(mho/cm). If the products have a value of less than 10pS, it is considered a low and unsafe level; the
typical minimum specification of the product is 50pS.

Product having a conductivity of more than 50pSm-1 can normally

Coefficient of expansion is important for stock reconciliation, consumer reaction, equipment
design, packaging design, and safety procedures. All materials expand and contract when heated or
cooled. Petroleum products, especially gasoil, expand and contract by a relatively large amount for
each degree change in temperature. These expansions and contractions can lead to disputes with
customers over delivered vs loaded quantities, and make it difficult to reconcile stocks over a period
of time. It is customary to manage stocks at a standard temperature usually but not always 15C.
ASTM/IP tables are normally used to calculate stock volume changes at varying temperatures.
However, recognise that the expansion rate can vary and the appropriate table must be chosen.
Lead Content
Lead is added to gasoline in the form of form of Tetra Ethyl Lead (TEL) or Tetra Methyl Lead (TML)
to improve their anti-knock characteristics. The compound and the breakdown products, whether in
gaseous, liquid or solid forms, are highly dangerous. Stringent conditions must be observed when tank
cleaning in order to protect the health of the tank cleaning operatives and others who might be
exposed to lead poisoning. The adding of lead to gasolines is progressively being phased out in many
countries as environmental considerations become more important.

Key Product Characteristics

Some key specifications are subjective rather than measurable but are essential for a quick quality
check. They are appearance and odour, octane number (RON and MON), lead content, distillation,
vapour pressure (RVP), density, composition, and contaminants.
Automotive Gasoline (U95 and U97)
Automotive gasoline should be bright and clear, free from water and suspended matter. Colouring of
the product can be done by dying of product. The colour of the gasoline can be green, blue, red and
etc. but does not directly affect the quality of the fuel. All products have a distinctive odour but foul
smelling of products are usually indicative of contamination. However, it is prohibited to smell fuel as
direct test.
Gasoline serve as fuel (Mogas) for motor car engines with spark ignition, as fuel (avgas) for
aircraft engine with spark ignition, and for industrial purposes (diluents and solvents). Octane number
for automotive gasoline measures the tendency for engine detonation (knock), however it is not
directly related to power output. Higher octane number are consider a better fuel (e.g. VP97) since
less non planned combustion occurred. Hence, it used to measure a fuels flame stability and ignition
characteristics within an engine. There are to measurements for octane number in automotive gasoline

Research Octane Number (RON) and Motor Octane Number (MON). RON was the original 1930
test engine and is low speed 600 rpm and low load. MON is a modification of the original method to
stimulate higher speed and higher load (900rpm and changeable spark advance). Although both
methods are normally used to specify the fuel performance, RON is the well-known and most quoted