Quality control comes in many forms. For some it is following a specific philosophy, such as those developed by Demming or Juran. For others it is achieving a specific degree of merit as that established by the Malcolm Baldridge Awards, or International Standard Organizations (ISO). However, the petroleum industry as a whole has compromised, shifted, and remained adaptable to an ever-changing world filled with government regulations and restrictions.

The negative environmental impact of the petroleum industry is either not understood, grossly downplayed, or it is blatantly ignored. Government agencies have amended and abolished amendments in many of their policies so quickly that establishing best practices is nearly impossible.

However, one thing in the petroleum industry remains the same. Safety is a key quality concept that must be adhered to. Tosco Corporation made a bad name for itself by ignoring certain safety issues. Quality control in the safety department was ineffective, and people died because of their neglect. Only recently have they outsourced the development of their safety program to Dupont.

Introduction to Government Standards

The Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) require an insurmountable amount of data, reports, testing, and auditing to ensure the compliance of all U.S. Oil Companies around the world. The most recent concern regarding the petroleum industry is that of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBEs) that are put in our fuel.

Early on it was believed that adding MTBEs to fuel would result in cleaner burning gasoline. However, according to the "Ground Water Monitor" small amounts seeped into the ground water and caused an unacceptable amount of contamination.

The conception of MTBEs was in 1967 with the passage of the Clean Air Act. This is the primary statute governing air quality in the United States. It assigns responsibilities to government and industry to reduce emissions from pollution sources such as automobiles, refineries, chemical plants, and power plants. However, it seems as though every solution to meet the stringent requirements poses another problem. The Clean Air Act has been amended several times, and most recently it is to be amended to ban MTBEs by the year 2002.

Many of the large oil companies, including Tosco Corp., have already made plans to completely remove MTBEs from their fuel production (MTBEs have already been removed from Connecticut fuel production).

Currently the EPA requires operators of facilities handling a regulated substance that exceeded a threshold quantity to prepare a Risk Management Plan (RMP). However, According to Hydrocarbon Processing (Nov 1997), it is the EPAs intention to implement a nationwide standard in accordance with policies specified by ISO 14001 (an International Organization Standard related to environmentally hazardous materials).


Most people do not understand the complete process involved with fuel production. However, it is necessary to understand when the quality control of the product or the operation is being analyzed.

A Refinery is a factory that cost billions to build, millions to maintain, and they run around the clock 365 days per year. They create the basis for many of the products that we see and/or use daily. The following is a short list of some of those products:
Bubble Gum
Denture Adhesive
Eyeglass Frames
Eyeglass frames
Floor Polish
Guitar Strings
Heart Valves

To put it simply, there are three basic steps that can be clearly identified in the production process. The first step is the separation of the petroleum. The next step is the conversion process so that definitive boundaries between the types of petroleum can be set. Last is the treatment of the finished product.

Separation is as simple as separating the heavy and the light petroleum. Inside the towers the liquids and vapors are separated into
fractions according to weight and boiling point. The lightest fractions are what we all know as "liquid petroleum gas" or LPGs. Medium weight liquids are turned into diesel fuel and
kerosene. The tar like fraction, or "residuum" comes from the bottom of the barrel. Most of this is what is used to make plastics and other products.

The most complicated step in the refinement of petroleum occurs
in the "conversion" stage. The most widely used method of conversion is call "cracking" or "Hydrocracking." Once again, this is using heat and pressure to crack heavy
hydrocarbon molecules into lighter ones. This process is what defines whether the LPGs become gas, racing