1 May /17


Refinery – Word of the day - EVS Translations
Refinery – Word of the day – EVS Translations

Today’s word is a blend of factors based on the obsolete verb fine, meaning ‘to make fine or delicate.’ Adding the prefix re- demonstrates an intensive process, while the suffix -ery is used to delineate a specific place. Therefore, the word refinery simply means ‘a place to process materials into specific goods.’

Naturally, we are most familiar with refinery being a term that is specific to the oil and gas industry, yet it can be applied to anything that is refined, from metal to sugar and beyond.

In fact, the first mention of the word, coming from John Chamberlayne’s accounting work, The Present State of Great Britain in 1716 and stating that: “Two Persons allowed for Collecting at Refineries.”, actually refers to refining salt and predates the first mention of petroleum refining by almost 150 years. During that period, the word refinery was mainly associated with furnaces for the refining of metals; and in particular iron, silver and gold.

The American petroleum refining industry started in 1853, when Samuel Kier, an inventor and businessman, established the first oil refinery in Pittsburgh.
And the first European oil refinery was opened one year later, by the Polish pharmacist and inventor Ignacy Łukasiewicz.

The phrase oil refining appeared first in use in the September 1860s issue of the Scientific American magazine: “Our correspondent will obtain information respecting the price of oil-refining apparatuses.”

To see oil refinery listed among the typical occupations in the country only two decades later, recorded in the 1881 American Almanac: “Occupations of the People of the United States… Oil and refinery operatives.”

Though oil and gas refineries may be a later association with the word, they have more than made up for it due to application. Sure, we all know that the different vehicle fuels and automotive products we use are byproducts of petroleum refining, but they deal with more than just this. For example, a typical barrel of oil also yields heating oil, aviation fuel, liquefied petroleum gas, asphalt base, kerosene, propane, etc.

Aside from producing more of the products that we need and use on a daily basis, energy refineries have also become smarter: looking at data from 1982 to 2014, though more than half of all US refineries closed, refinery capacity actually increased.