Water requirements of the petroleum refining industry

Water Supply Paper 1330-G




About 3,500 million gallons of water was withdrawn daily in 1955 for use by petroleum refineries in the United States. This was about 3 percent of the estimated daily withdrawal of industrial water in the United States in 1955. An average of 468 gallons of water was required to refine a barrel of crude oil, and the median was 95 gallons of water per barrel of crude charge; withdrawals ranged from 6.5 to 3,240 gallons per barrel.

Ninety-one percent of the water requirements of the petroleum refineries surveyed was for cooling. One-third of the refineries reused their cooling water from 10 to more than 50 times. Only 17 refineries used once-through cooling systems. Refineries with recirculating cooling systems circulated about twice as much cooling water but needed about 25 times less makeup; however, they consumed about 24 times more water per barrel of charge than refineries using once-through cooling systems.

The average noncracking refinery used about 375 gallons of water per barrel of crude, which is less than the 471-gallon average of refineries with cracking facilities. Refineries are composed of various processing units, and the water requirements of such units varied ; median makeup needs ranged from about 125 gallons per barrel for polymerization and alkylation units to 15.5 gallons per barrel for distillation units.

Refinery-owned sources of water supplied 95 percent of the makeup-water requirements. Surface-water sources provided 86 percent of the makeup-water demand. Less than 1 percent of the makeup water was obtained from reprocessed municipal sewage.

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USGS Numbered Series
Water requirements of the petroleum refining industry
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
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U.S. Government Printing Office
Report: v, 54 p.; Plate: 19.50 x 11.91 inches
Larger Work Title:
Water requirements of selected industries
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