What Is Oil Made Of?

For over 100 years, oil has been the “black gold” that fueled vehicles and fueled economic growth and global prosperity. Crude oil, commonly known as petroleum, is a liquid found inside the Earth, consisting of hydrocarbons, organic compounds and a small amount of metal. Crude oil is a naturally occurring liquid that can be processed into a variety of fuels and other petroleum-based products.

Crude oil or petroleum (literally “rock oil” in Latin) is a liquid fossil fuel consisting mainly of hydrocarbons (hydrogen and carbon compounds). We call crude oil and fossil fuels because they are mixtures of hydrocarbons formed from the remains of plants and animals (diatoms) that lived in marine environments millions of years ago, and that dinosaurs (diatoms) appeared in numerous million years ago. Years ago in the marine environment before the dinosaurs appeared. Although petrochemicals are continuously formed through natural processes, they are often classified as non-renewable resources because they take millions of years to form and significant reserves are known to be depleted faster than new reserves are created .


Petrochemicals are oils formed by natural processes, such as the anaerobic decomposition of buried dead organisms, and contain organic molecules from ancient photosynthesis that release energy when burned. Petrochemicals range from volatile substances with a low carbon-to-hydrogen ratio, such as methane (CH 4 ), to liquids, such as petroleum, and non-volatile substances composed of nearly pure carbon, such as anthracite (bituminous coal).

Fossil fuels found in crude oil have a higher carbon to hydrogen ratio than gaseous fuels and therefore have a higher energy density and are in liquid form. Fossil fuels are primarily crude oil, natural gas, and coal, which are made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur, oxygen, and other minerals (Figure 1, link). While crude oil is the main feedstock, fuel ethanol, gaseous hydrocarbon liquids and other blending liquids are also used.

Steam cracking uses a mixture of hydrocarbons of various fractions as feedstock, such as reactant gases (ethane, propane or butane) natural gas or liquids (naphtha or gas oil) (Fig. 4). During the refining process, crude oil is converted into various petroleum products, which are converted into useful chemicals, including “monomers” (molecules that form the basis of polymers). Through several processes, including isodewaxing, hydrocracking and ultimately distillation, these molecules are converted into a usable base oil.


The next step involves another chemical process to combine carbon monoxide and hydrogen from syngas into complex fuels such as gasoline (containing up to eight carbons) or heavier products such as kerosene, diesel fuel and lubricating oil. Because heavier oils contain too much carbon and not enough hydrogen, these processes typically involve removing carbon or adding hydrogen to the molecules and using fluid catalytic cracking to convert the longer, more complex molecules in the oil to the shorter, simpler ones in the fuel oil. and gasoline.

Once extracted, the oil is transported to refineries via supertankers, trains, trucks, or pipelines to be converted into usable fuels such as gasoline, propane, kerosene, and jet fuel, as well as products such as plastics and paints. Fuel oil, heating oil (bunker fuel), jet fuel (kerosene), natural gas (methane), propane, etc. are all made up of various types of hydrocarbons. Petroleum products include transportation fuels, fuel oil for heating and power generation, asphalt and road oil, as well as chemical feedstocks, plastics and synthetic materials, which are used in almost everything we use. Personal care products such as cosmetics and shampoos are made using petroleum products, as well as medical supplies such as IV bags and pharmaceuticals.

The gasoline we use to power our cars, the synthetic fabrics for our backpacks and shoes, and thousands of different petroleum-based health products come in stable and reliable forms. Fossil fuels provide electricity, heat and transportation, and power processes that produce a wide range of products, from steel to plastics. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, which in turn trap heat in our atmosphere, making them the main contributors to global warming and climate change. Decaying plants and other organisms buried under layers of sediment and rock took millennia to turn into the carbon-rich deposits we now call fossil fuels.


Coal formed wherever plants were buried in the sediments of ancient swamps, but other conditions, including oil and gas, had to be present for oil to form. Fossil fuels — hydrocarbons called peat, coal, oil and natural gas — are formed from the components of deep and well-preserved organic matter. However, some believe that some of the natural gas may have originated deep underground, where heat from melting rocks may have formed inorganically. There may also be animals buried in sedimentary rocks and turned into fossils. The oil is then chemically converted into crude oil and natural gas. Crucially, the porphyrin molecules degrade rapidly in the presence of oxygen and heat. 5 Therefore, the fact that porphyrins are still present in crude oil today must imply that source rocks and plant (and animal) fossils in oil are source rocks. As they are deposited and buried, they must be supported by oxygen.

From the burning of heavy fuels that cloud icebergs found in Arctic waters, to the piles of petrochemical-made plastics that end up in our rivers, every barrel of oil and refined products affects our environment in different ways. Having gained worldwide fame only in the very near future of oil history, we humans drink natural crude oil and turn it into (among other things) asphalt, plastic and gasoline. Oil is often limited to the liquid form, commonly referred to as crude oil, but as a technical term, oil also includes natural gas and a viscous or solid form known as bitumen, which is found in tar sands. Most of Canada’s oil is used as fuel for transport, essential for the mobility of people, goods and services.

This post was proofread with Grammarly.

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