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How did this happen? The Path of Oil

Reading time: 3 min

It’s long, it’s complex: Diesel and petrol have a long journey behind them before making it to the filling station. From North Africa to Austria in our example.

More than 1.5 million OMV customers visit our filling stations every day to fill up for the next leg of their journey. The world as we know it, the world we live in today, is unthinkable without oil.

The way the oil is transported from its original country to where it will be processed, the way it is turned into finished products in the refineries so that it can finally end up in a car’s tank, well, that’s another story.

Birgit Leitner Department Manager Origination & Feedstock, OMV Refining & Marketing GmbH
We currently get oil from around 20 countries worldwide – from Kazakhstan to Norway to Austria. Before it leaves our refinery on its way to the end customer, the longest part of its journey is actually already complete.
Birgit Leitner, Department Manager Origination & Feedstock, OMV Refining & Marketing GmbH

Today, why don’t you ask yourself the question: How did this happen?

This video answers several small questions and one major one: Where does the crude come from and what phases does it go through before it gets to the pump.

From crude to the filling station, for example North Africa to Vienna, in eight steps. Join us on this exciting journey:


1) Crude oil

Drilling is first: If OMV doesn’t do this itself, the crude oil is purchased by our traders in London. Currently we obtain oil from almost 20 countries worldwide – from Kazakhstan to Norway to Austria. Or, as in our example, from an oil source in the North African country of Algeria, where the “Sahara Blend” is extracted.


2) Pipeline

The crude oil is then sent into a network of pipelines directly from the production sites. The largest pipelines run from the wells to refineries or ports. In our case, the pipeline leads to the Algerian port of Bejaia.


3) Oil tanker

After arriving at the port, the crude oil is pumped into a tanker. At this point, it becomes OMV’s property. The Algerian crude, for example, is pumped into a so-called Aframax tanker with a holding capacity of 600,000 barrels. That equals, depending on the daily price of crude oil, around USD 20 mn (as of February 2016) – and that is just a small tanker.


4) Port

After a four to five days trip, the tanker reaches its destination – the port of Trieste, one of the most important ports for oil in Europe. Around 12 tankers loaded with OMV’s crude arrive here every month. However, not all the crude oil ends up in the Schwechat and Burghausen refineries. Some of it is resold. The tanker is now discharged – with this volume it takes 24 hours.


5) Transalpine Pipeline

After being stored temporarily in the tank farm in Trieste, the oil moves on through the Transalpine Pipeline (TAL) to Carinthia, Austria. Here it connects to the Adria-Wien Pipeline (AWP). The crude oil flows through the AWP at an average speed of 6.5 kilometers per hour across 420 kilometers to the Schwechat refinery.


6) Refinery

After arriving in the refinery, the crude oil is processed. This happens – very simply put – in a distillation column. Here, the individual components to produce gasoline, diesel, and aircraft fuel are extracted.


7) Tank farm

But the journey isn’t over yet. The refined blend components are transported from the refinery to the Lobau tank farm in Vienna, where they are finally “blended” as needed – i.e., mixed into the actual finished product. From one liter of Sahara Blend crude, we get about 20 percent gasoline, around 30 percent diesel, plus almost 20 percent of the aircraft fuel Jet A1. From the rest, or from gasoline respectively, petrochemical products and heating oil are produced.


8) Filling station

Gasoline and diesel remain in the tanks until they are transported via ships, trains, or tank trucks to other tank farms or finally to the filling stations – where they are then pumped into cars through dispensers. The other products like heating oil or aircraft fuel are transported throughout Europe with trains, ships, or through pipelines as well.

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