What is petroleum?

Oil is a natural liquid found below the Earth’s surface that can be refined into fuel. Oil is a fossil fuel, which means that it was created by the decomposition of organic matter over millions of years. It forms in sedimentary rock under intense heat and pressure. Petroleum is used as fuel to fuel vehicles, heaters and machines of all kinds, as well as to be converted into plastics and other materials. Due to the global dependence on petroleum, the petroleum industry is extremely powerful and has a major influence on world politics and the world economy.

Understanding petroleum

Petroleum and petroleum extraction and processing are the engine of the world economy and of world politics. The modern world owes its existence to oil. Some of the world’s largest companies are involved in the extraction and processing of petroleum, while others create products that require hydrocarbons to function or are petroleum-based: plastics, fertilizers, automobiles and aircraft, for example. . Asphalt, which is used to pave roads, is made from petroleum. Vehicles traveling on highways are made from petroleum-based materials and run on refined fuels made from petroleum.

Oil is most often associated with crude oil and wells dug in the ground to bring this liquid to the surface. The liquid can vary in color: from relatively transparent to dark brown or black. Heavier oils are often the darkest color. Petroleum contains various types of hydrocarbons and natural gas is often dissolved in the liquid in large quantities. Hydrocarbons can be transformed in refineries into different types of fuels. Hydrocarbon molecules in petroleum include asphalt, paraffin and naphthene.

Oil is made up of a mixture of various hydrocarbons and can have different chemical and physical properties depending on where it is found in the world. In general, the denser the oil, the more difficult it is to process and the less valuable it is. “Light” crude is the easiest to refine and is generally considered the most valuable, while the viscosity of “heavy” crude makes it more expensive to refine. “Acid” crude contains sulfur and sulfuric compounds, which makes the fuel less valuable.

In the petroleum industry, petroleum companies are divided upstream, downstream and downstream. Upstream deals with crude oil. Midstream refers to the storage and transportation of crude oil and other more refined products. Downstream refers to consumer products such as petrol.

Disadvantages of oil

The use of petroleum is an integral part of modern life, but the process of extracting and using petroleum is toxic to the environment. Underwater drilling causes leaks, oil sands extraction strips the earth or uses precious water, and hydraulic fracturing destroys the water table. Pipeline transportation of oil has the potential to destroy the local environment and to expedite the risk of oil spills and energy consumption.

Global use of petroleum has had a negative impact on the environment, as the carbon released into the atmosphere increases temperatures and is associated with global warming. Many products created from petroleum derivatives do not biodegrade quickly and overuse of fertilizers can damage water supplies.

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