Wednesday, October 22, 2008

word of the day: fractionation

context: In a description of the towers at an oil refinery, the author says, “[Some] are fractionating towers, in which crude oil is heated from the bottom to distill it. The various hydrocarbons in crude, ranging from tar to gasoline to natural gas, have different boiling points; as they’re heated, they separate, arranging themselves in the column with the lightest ones on top. … Looming overhead are 20 fractionation towers and 20 more exhaust stacks.”

source: The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

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