Oil and Gas is transported in the following manner:

Pipeline –Pipelines are typically used to move crude oil from the wellhead to gathering and processing facilities and from there to refineries and tanker loading facilities.
Pipelines are still considered to be the primary mode of transportation for oil. Approximately 71% of crude oil and petroleum products are shipped by pipeline on a ton-mile basis.

Rail – Oil shipment by train has become a growing phenomenon as new oil reserves are identified across the globe. The relatively small capital costs and construction period make rail transport an ideal alternative to pipelines for long distance shipping.
Rail can rapidly enter markets because the primary new infrastructure required is trans-loading terminals, which typically have short construction lead times of just 12-18 months.

Truck – Trucks are the most limited oil transportation method in terms of storage capacity, but they have the greatest flexibility in potential destinations.
Trucks are often the last step in the transport process, delivering oil and refined petroleum products to their intended storage destinations. Like worker bees collecting honey, these reliable and this means of transport are always working in the field, travelling between tank batteries and oil terminals or refineries.

Ship – where oil transport over land is not suitable, oil can be transported by ship. Below are some types of ships

  • Tank Barges: Tank barges traditionally carry petrochemicals and natural gas feedstocks to the nation's chemical plants, or else bottom-of-the-barrel stuff like asphalt and tar for road work and construction. Transporting crude oil is new, and it's safe to say that crude-by-barge was made possible by crude-by-rail.
  • Crude Oil Carriers: The picture from the US Energy Information Administration illustrates the different sizes of crude oil carriers used

Image from the US Energy Information Administration illustrating the different sizes of crude oil carriers

(Image courtesy of The US Energy Information Administration)

Section Reference: Different Methods of Crude Oil Transportation



Refinery Processes The six basic refining processes are as follows; -

  • Separation/ Simple Distillation: This is achieved by raising the temperature of the input crude supply in pipes that pass through a furnace heated to circa 360°C. This vaporises individual fractions of the crude feed which then condense and separate out on trays within the column according to the varying boiling points and densities petroleum products.
  • Reforming: This process changes the configuration of individual molecules as in catalytic reforming and isomerisation. This process is commonly used in the final stages of gasoline production.
  • Treating: This process uses catalysts, electrolysis and hydrogen to chemically remove contamination such as salts, nickel, vanadium, sulphur and nitrogen oxides. Examples of treatment processes include hydrogenating, hydrofining, hydrodesulfurization).
  • Cracking: This process breaks down large hydrocarbon molecules into smaller ones in the presence of a catalyst. A catalyst is used to speed up the rate of reaction. The catalysts (example: alumina) can be recycled numerous times.
  • Catalytic and Hydrocracking: Chemical reactions utilising catalysts can be used in the presence of hydrogen or steam.
    • Thermal Cracking: with the application of very high temperatures heat alone breaks down large hydrocarbon molecules. A common process used in European refineries is known as visbreaking.
    • Coking: Residues, the carbon-rich heavy ends of the refinery process are 'cooked' at high temperatures (600°C) to produce lighter products such as Gasol and naphtha.
  • Deep Conversion: Combines carbon extraction with the addition of hydrogen. This process is designed to convert the heaviest fractions (refinery residue or bottoms) into lighter and marketable products. The process includes coking, residue catalytic cracking and de-asphalting.


  1. Energy Institution Refining
  2. A Simple Guide to Oil Refining

Refining in Kenya: Kenya Petroleum Refineries Limited (KPRL)

The KPRL was originally set up by Shell and the British Petroleum Company BP IN 1959 to serve the East African region in the supply of a wide variety of oil products. The refinery is in Changamwe, Mombasa Kenya.
The refinery complex which has the following units:

  • distillation,
  • hydro treating,
  • catalytic reforming; and
  • bitumen production units

The refinery processes imported crude oil for marketing companies (Refinery Users) on the basis of processing agreements which set out precise terms upon which the Refinery takes custody of specific quantities and types of crude oil, and how they should be processed and delivered. For this service, the user pays a processing fee. The refinery offers the following service:

  • Crude oil refining
  • Laboratory services
  • Loading Facility
  • Emergency Response School

KPRL's main products include Liquefied petroleum gas, unleaded premium gasoline, regular petrol, automotive Gasol, Industrial diesel, fuel oil and special products like bitumen and grease.


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