The overall refining capacity of IP api Group is equal to approximately 10 million tonnes and is made up of the entire capacity of the two industrial plants, namely the Ancona Refinery and the SARPOM Refinery in Trecate (Novara) as well as the tolling contract at the Alma Refinery (Ravenna).

In particular, Falconara and Alma Ravenna specialize in the production of bitumens and fuels, while Trecate mainly deals with the production of fuels. Bitumtec (Volpiano) is the company that specializes in the production of modified bitumen.

A few details about petroleum
From the barrel to the forecourt

Every month, thousands of barrels of crude oil make the long journey from distant wells to the refinery, where the oil undergoes a series of processes that are collectively referred to as “refining”. These processes transform the crude oil into the products that leave the gates and wharves transformed into LPG, petrol, diesel and bitumen, to name just a few.

The structure of a refinery can be simple or, on the other hand, highly complex and sophisticated. The more complex, the greater the capacity to obtain a greater quantity of sought-after products such as petrol and diesel from a barrel, rather than those with a lower value, such as combustible oil.

The first, and perhaps the most important process that petroleum undergoes during the refining process is primary distillation, called topping, which is a type of “boiling” that takes place in a refinery’s largest column.

In refiniery

Once inside the column, the lightest elements rise to the top in vapour form, followed by the heavier components that are unable to make their way to the top of the column, meaning that gradually they settle at lower heights.

Approximately half of the oil is so heavy that it falls back on to the floor of the topping column. So, up top you have the lightest gases and composites, some of which are used as combustibles in the refinery itself and others are sold as LPG (liquified petroleum gas).

Below these, petrol, kerosene and diesel are collected, while what remains on the floor is sent to a new column known as a vacuum. All products from the vacuum pass through a series of conversion plants (named Visbreaking and Thermal Cracking) where they are transformed and the long carbon atoms chains are broken up to create lighter, more valuable products, ie petrol and diesel.

Anything that is not converted is used in the production of bitumens. Petrol and diesel derived from topping and conversion plants are subjected to further processes designed to improve aspects such as sulphuric or benzene content and the octane number, making them more appropriate for the market


The word itself comes from the Latin term petra oleum which means oil from stone. It could best be described as a kind of minestrone because of its dense, greasy appearance. It has a distinctive smell and its colour can range from yellow-brown to blackish. It is a mixture of compounds of varying weights and dimensions or, as chemists might call them to underline the composition of hydrogen and carbon, hydrocarbons. These compounds are the result of carbon’s tendency to form long chains that can be linear, branch-like or in the shape of a closed ring, made up of interlinked atoms.


The oil industry uses two common measurements: tonnes and barrels. The latter corresponds to approximately 160 litres and this is a throwback to the dimensions of the wooden casks used in the very early days of the oil industry in Pennsylvania to collect the crude.

Ocatane numbers

The octane number or rating measures the anti-detonating capacity of a fuel, particularly petrol.

Detonation can compromise an engine’s life and so, to increase the octane rating and avoid this occurrence, petrols derived from reforming and isomerisation processes are mixed, then combined with anti-detonant compounds such as MTBE being added.