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Production from crude oil to advanced bitumen As a specialist in bitumen we view bitumen as an advanced and complex construction material, not as a mere by-product of the oil refining process. So where does bitumen come from? Bitumen is produced by refining crude oil. At refineries crude oil is refined by fractional distillation. The crude oil is pumped from storage tanks, where it is kept at about 60°C, through a heat exchanger system where its temperature is increased to typically 200°C by exchanging heat gained from the cooling of newly produced products in the refining process. The crude is then further heated in a furnace to typically 300° C where it is partly vaporized before entering an Atmospheric Distillation Column.
Here the physical separation of the components occurs. The lighter components rise to the top and the heaviest components fall to the bottom of the column. The material from the bottom then enters a Vacuum Distillation Column via another heat exchanger. Here is where the bitumen is produced. Vacuum distillation helps to maintain the inherently high binding characteristics of crude, due to the lower operating temperatures.