Sour Crude Oil

Definition - What does Sour Crude Oil mean?

Sour Crude Oil is a type of crude which contains high levels of sulfur content. As per the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), any crude oil which has sulfur content equal to or greater than 0.5% is considered as Sour Crude Oil. Generally high levels of impurities are found in crude oil which is heavy in nature i.e., viscous to flow in pipelines and has an API gravity of less than 10 Degrees.

Petropedia explains Sour Crude Oil

Crude oil which is sour and heavy needs extra processing units in refineries so as to yield high grade of petroleum products, thus the cost of processing such type of crude oil is more as compared to other types. With simple one stage processing (CDU), such type of crude oil yields a lower category of products such as asphalt, charcoal, bitumen, etc.

However, before feeding this type of crude oil into any processing unit, the sulfur content needs to be highly minimized or completely removed because when sulfur reacts with hydrogen molecules of crude oil it forms a dangerous gas called hydrogen sulfide. As per the environmental regulations, hydrogen sulfide is a breathing hazard and can make Sour Crude Oil toxic and corrosive which in turn can be harmful to the environment and people. Thus, as required by the law, before transporting Sour Crude Oil in oil tankers, sulfur has to be removed.

Worldwide there are many locations from where Sour Crude Oil is produced; however, below are the major Sour Crude Oil producers:

  • North America Region: Alberta (Canada), USA (Gulf of Mexico, Mexico and Alaska)
  • South America Region: Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia
  • Middle East Region: Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Egypt and Syria.

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