Fuels Industry UK members are leading suppliers of non-road fuels, a range of high-value products that underpin key sectors of the economy. As well as adapting their existing products, some downstream firms are diversifying into new areas.

Petrochemicals

Next to fuels for transport, petrochemical feedstocks for manufacturing the raw material for plastics must rank as the most important products from the refining process, both in terms of the huge range of products made and the value they add to the UK economy.

Refineries can be closely integrated with nearby petrochemical plants or export these feedstocks to chemicals production plants within the UK or overseas.

Feedstocks for chemicals are derived from processing gases from a cracker or another upgrading unit. The principal feedstocks are ethane, butene, benzene and propene which are made into ethylene, butylene and propylene. These base chemicals are the building blocks for a whole range of polymers manufactured for a wide variety of products.

Lubricants

Lubricants and greases are produced from the heavy residue taken from the bottom of the distillation tower, which is then fed into a vacuum distillation unit to produce base-oil and waxes. These products are usually further treated at dedicated blending plants, which includes further additives to give the end product the required properties.

So called synthetic lubricants have become fairly common to meet the demanding technical requirements of modern internal combustion engines but also items as diverse as wind turbines that need lubricants to function efficiently. These lubricants start with base oil components and then use further processes to change the molecular structure giving the lubricant specific properties.

Refineries can be closely integrated with petrochemical plants or export feedstocks to chemicals production plants within the UK or overseas.

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Solvents

Closely allied to petrochemical feedstocks are solvents such as acetone, toluene, xylene, plus other hydrocarbon solvents like white spirit. These products are blended in a variety of ways to meet a myriad of uses which include adhesives, paints, polishes, de-greasers and inks.

Bitumen

Bitumen is a product derived from distillation of crude oil, made from part of the residue left over after gas oil has been drawn off from the bottom of a distillation column. This residue is subject to further processes to produce different grades of bitumen. The many uses for bitumen include road surfaces, pavements, roofing and roofing felt, waterproofing and cladding.

Graphite coke

When oil is refined, a heavy residue is left over, which has traditionally been used as bunker fuel for ships or used in power stations. By instead putting this residue through a "coker" to produce petrol, refineries can also produce "petroleum coke" or "graphite coke". Certain formulations of these substances can be used in the very lithium ion batteries that are used in smart phones and electric vehicles.

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