Distillation of Crude Oil

Distillation of Crude Oil

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Fractional Distillation of Crude Oil
The boiling points of organic compounds can give important clues to other physical properties. A liquid boils when its vapor pressure is equal to the atmospheric pressure. Vapor pressure is determined by the kinetic energy of molecules. Kinetic energy is related to temperature and the mass and velocity of the molecules. When the temperature reaches the boiling point, the average kinetic energy of the liquid particles is sufficient to overcome the forces of attraction that hold molecules in the liquid state. Then these molecules break away from the liquid forming the gas state.
Vapor pressure is caused by an equilibrium between molecules in the gaseous state and molecules in the liquid state. When molecules in the liquid state have sufficient kinetic energy, they may escape from the surface and turn into a gas. Molecules with the most independence in individual motions achieve sufficient kinetic energy (velocities) to escape at lower temperatures. The vapor pressure will be higher and therefore the compound will boil at a lower temperature.
Molecules which strongly interact or bond with each other through a variety of intermolecular forces can not move easily or rapidly and therefore, do not achieve the kinetic energy necessary to escape the liquid state. Therefore, molecules with strong intermolecular forces will have higher boiling points. This is a consequence of the increased kinetic energy needed to break the intermolecular bonds so that individual molecules may escape the liquid as gases.

A series of alkanes demonstrates the general principle that boiling points increase as molecular weight or chain length increases (table 1.).
Formula      Name      Boiling Point C      Normal State at Room Temp. +20 C
CH4      Methane      -161      gas
CH3CH3      Ethane      - 89     
CH3CH2CH3      Propane      - 42     
CH3CH2CH2CH3      Butane      -0.5     
CH3CH2CH2CH2CH3      Pentane      + 36      liquid
CH3(CH2)6CH3      Octane      +125     
QUES. State whether the compounds above will be a gas or liquid state at room temperature (20 C). Hint: If the boiling point is below 20 C, then the liquid has already boiled andthe compound is a gas.
The reason that longer chain molecules have higher boiling points is that longer chain molecules become wrapped around and enmeshed in each other much like the strands of spaghetti.

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More energy is needed to separate them than short molecules which have only weak forces of attraction for each other.
Petroleum refining
Crude oil is a complicated mixture of hydrocarbons, with a varying composition depending on its source. The hydrocarbons in crude oil have different boiling points, according to the number of carbon atoms their molecules contain and how they are arranged. Fractional distillation uses the difference in boiling point to separate the hydrocarbons in crude oil. The fractionating column is cooler at the top than the bottom, so the vapours cool as they rise.

Vapours condense onto a tray when they reach the part of the column which is cooler than their boiling point. The bubble caps (figure 17) help to slow down the vapours has they rise through the column. As the last gases from the bottom of the column pass through the holes in a tray, any lighter hydrocarbons still in the condensed liquid are boiled off, and rise through the column.
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