Willie’s Academic Tour to an Oil Refinery

We went for the first academic tour to the Changamwe oil refinery at the end of the 2nd week of this month. We left Nairobi town at 9am and had a very long journey to Mombasa.

We arrived almost 6pm and joined our Mombasa constituent college, the Mombasa Polytechnic. We were accommodated for the night and the next day we visited the oil refinery premises and spent the day learning. On the 3rd day we toured the island (Mombasa) and left for Nairobi in the morning of the 4th day.

At the Oil Refinery, our main aim was to go through the process by which various oil products are extracted from crude oil especially jet fuel as well as the mechanics of machine involved in the processes. Petroleum products are all obtained by the process of fractional distillation. Major petroleum products used for fuelling aircrafts are kerosene and gasoline (usually in spirit form). These are used in Jet turbo engines and diesel aircraft engines.

From distillation, kerosene and gasoline intended for aviation fuelling is transported to companies that produce aircraft fuel. At the company, jet fuel is obtained from kerosene and “avgas” aviation gasoline is highly refined with emphasis on purity and anti-knock characteristics. While avgas is sold in low volumes to individual aircraft operators, jet fuel is sold in high volumes to large aircraft operators such as airlines and military.

On Monday of 28th we toured Portland Cement in Athi-River. It was an hour drive from college. The structures here were quite different from those in the oil refinery. We went through some of the processes involved in preparing the required materials. i.e. extraction and transportation to the plant. At the plant, raw materials are ground, preheat and then sent to the kiln and heated at high temperatures and then cooled by air to form the clinker. The clinker is finely ground to produce cement.

Most of the machines used in the plant are computer programmed and are run by computer aided manufacturing software (CAM). A lot of technology is also involved in the running of all the systems.

The tours have really been helpful. I was able to interact with major workers in the plants who were vital in guiding me through most plant processes. Seeing the machines in function and understanding their operational principles was really rewarding to me.