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Difference Between Sweet and Sour Crude

oil-production_pdSweet vs Sour Crude

Although there are many other classifications of oil like with respect to its molecular weight (light versus heavy crude oil), two classifications are usually confused with each other. These are the sweet and the sour crude oils.

Foremost, it is best to define what crude oil really is. This oil is practically equal to what is known as unrefined oil. But with regard to discerning the sour and sweet crude types, the primary difference between the two is in their sulfur content. It is important to note though that the fewer the sulfur in the oil, the friendlier it becomes to the environment. Thus, the former is rich in sulfur (has more pollutants) whereas the latter has lower sulfur content. Because of such, sweet crude also implies that the refinery costs are lower since most refineries to begin with are only processing the sweeter crude products. In addition, this type of crude has fewer impurities as compared to the other and is a lot easier to process.

Moreover, other experts categorize the sulfur content in crude into three different groups. One is the crude with low sulfur, the second is termed as intermediate crude and the last is the high sulfur crude. The first one refers to the sweet crude (less than 0.5% sulfur by weight), whereas the second category has a sulfur value ranging from 0.5% to 1% by weight. This makes the high sulfur crude (sour crude) as the oil with more than 1% sulfur by weight.

The problem the world is facing nowadays is because of the declining supply of conventional gasoline. This gas is practically the lighter and sweeter crude, whose peak production is said to have already lapsed. Unfortunately, the world has recently seen an increase in the demand for gas. As a result, oil refineries have been forced to do billion dollars worth of upgrades to their systems so that they can handle the heavier and sour crude form containing more sulfur.

Hence, the processing of the more challenging high sulfur petroleum often leads to a more expensive gas since the impurities and excess sulfur has to be cut down according to the stringent regulations imposed on gas quality nowadays. The overall result is a never ending surge in gas prices.

1. Sweet crude has less sulfur content as opposed to sour crude.
2. Sweet crude has fewer impurities as opposed to sour crude.
3. Sweet crude is more environment-friendly that sour crude.
4. Sweet crude is easier to process at the refinery (refining costs are also lower) as compared to sour crude.


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