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What is Crude Oil? What is Condensate?

The energy industry has avoided hard definitions for Crude Oil versus Condensate.  One of the more confusing parts of the energy industry is why there are different names for the same thing – a barrel of gooey black stuff is all crude oil – RIGHT?!?

 

 Well … not exactly

Composition of Crude Oil and Condensate

Crude Oil and Condensate are  mixtures of hydrocarbons that contain various components.  Depending on the extraction technique, geographic location, reservoir, and numerous other factors the components of a barrel of crude oil or condensate can contain any combination of asphalt, petro-chemical feedstocks, heavy fuel oil, jet fuel, diesel, automotive gasoline, lubricants, waxes, and hydrocarbon gas liquids.

One of the key factors in the industry in understanding the difference between crude oil and condensate is the quantity of hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) in a barrel of crude oil.  If a barrel has more HGL, then the barrel is considered “light” or high gravity. 

Fact: Energy Professionals waste HOURs every day trying to find Accurate, Unbiased, and Objective Oil & Gas Analysis.

GRAVITY

The American Petroleum Institute (API) is the largest US trade association for oil and natural gas.  According to the API, the following classifications exist for light, medium, heavy

Type of Crude Oil
API Gravity
Heavy
Below 22.3 Degrees
Medium
22.3 to 31.1 Degrees
Light
Above 31.1 Degrees

Um – ok – so what about Crude Oil versus Condensate?

Let’s start with the API of West Texas Intermediate Crude which is considered the benchmark quality standard for the United States.  West Texas Intermediate Crude (WTI) is 39.6 degrees.  Often the industry participants round this off to 40 degrees for simplicity.

Generally, the higher the gravity then there are more hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGLs) in the barrel.  There isn’t a hard cutoff on gravity to determine whether a barrel is crude oil or condensate.  That said, generally it is safe to say any gravity above 50 degrees would be considered among all energy participants to be condensate.  Barrels between 40 and 45 are considered light crude oil. Barrels that are between 45 degrees (WTI quality) and 50 degrees – this has historically been the area where most industry participants debate whether to call the barrel crude oil or condensate.

API Gravity
Industry Classification
Below 30 Degrees
Heavy Crude Oil
30 - 40 Degrees
Crude Oil
40-45 Degrees
Light Crude Oil
45-50 Degrees
Crude Oil OR Condensate
50 Degrees or Above
Condensate

Summary:  What Gravity is Condensate?

According to the API definition, a West Texas Intermediate Barrel (the benchmark quality utilized for the NYMEX and ICE financial contracts) is a “light” barrel.  About 4-5 degrees higher, and you get into the “fuzzy” definition of Crude Oil or Condensate. 

But the industry seems very consistent that any barrel lighter than 50 degrees is classified as Condensate. So, to make it clear as mud:  

  • 40 Degrees or Less:  Crude Oil
  • 40 to 45 Degrees:  Light Crude Oil
  • 45 to 50 Degrees:  Some call it Crude and others call it Condensate
  • 50 Degrees or More:  Condensate

Hopefully, this helps to understand all of these CIA’s (crazy industry acronyms) 🙂

Have a great day!

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