January 8, 2018 / 8:42 AM / a year ago

Factbox: Condensate - a convenient yet explosive fossil fuel

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - An Iranian oil tanker collided with a grain freighter in the East China Sea over the weekend, erupting in fire and leaving its entire crew of 32 dead or missing.

The tanker Sanchi (IMO:9356608) collided with the CF Crystal (IMO:9497050), a cargo ship carrying grain from the United States, about 160 nautical miles offshore to the east of Shanghai on Saturday evening.

The Panama-registered tanker was sailing from Iran to South Korea, carrying 136,000 tonnes of condensate, an ultra-light form of crude oil.

Below are some key characteristics and uses of condensate.


Condensate is an extremely light form of oil which mostly occurs as a byproduct of natural gas production.

It is usually composed of propane, butane, pentane or hexane but can also contain carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, aromatics and naphthenes, known as impurities.

Whether or not condensate is liquid or gaseous depends on temperature and pressure.

It is mostly transparent and close to odorless.

Russia and the Middle East are the biggest producers.

More recently, U.S. condensate output has risen sharply due to the shale oil and gas production boom.

Australia’s condensate output is also rising due to its large offshore natural gas fields which are in the process of ramping up that also produce condensate.


Condensate is mostly used to make vehicle fuel, such as gasoline. It is therefore sometimes called natural gasoline.

It can also be used to dilute heavier crude oils before they are used as a feedstock in oil refineries.

It is also used to make products like plastic in the petrochemical sector.

Before it can be used, condensate has to be stabilized by removing vapor pressure and other elements.


Like all fossil fuels, condensate contains toxicants which are harmful to the environment, animals and humans.

It is generally more flammable and explosive than normal crude oil.

Operating in areas where condensate has escaped is dangerous for crew due to the danger of explosions, oxygen displacement and the threat of asphyxiating and anaesthetizing, which can occur within a few human breaths.

Whether escaped condensate causes an oil spill or not depends on whether it has vaporized, burnt off, or escaped in liquid form.

When forming a spill, it is considered to be dangerous due to its toxicity and because it is difficult to contain and manage. However, it dissipates and breaks down more easily than heavier oils.

Reporting by Henning Gloystein; Editing by Christian Schmollinger

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