Petroleum or crude oil is a naturally occurring liquid found in formations in the Earth consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons (mostly alkanes) of various lengths. Petroleum literally means rock oil; oil that comes from rock. Petroleum or Crude Oil is a naturally occurring hydrocarbon-based liquid which is sometimes present in porous rocks beneath the earth’s surface. Petroleum is formed by the slow alteration of organic remains over time. It consists of a mixture of liquid hydrocarbon compounds and varies widely in composition, color, density, and viscosity. This liquid after distillation yields a range of combustible fuels, petrochemicals, and lubricants. Compounds and mixtures of compounds separated from crude petroleum by distillation include gasoline, diesel fuel, kerosene, fuel oil, some types of alcohol, benzene, heavy naphtha, different grades of lubricating oils and residuum. Petroleum is usually classified according to the predominance of paraffin or asphalted compounds and accordingly is said to have a paraffin base, an intermediate base, or an asphalt base.
Oil wells are drilled as deep as six miles into the Earth to search for petroleum. These wells can cost millions of dollars to drill, yet drilling is done because petroleum is a valuable natural resource. Although the major use of petroleum is as a fuel (gasoline, jet fuel, heating oil) and petroleum and natural gas are often used to generate electricity, there are many other uses as well.
Here are some of the ways petroleum is used in our every day lives. All plastic is made from petroleum and plastic is used almost everywhere, in cars, houses, toys, computers and clothing. Asphalt used in road construction is a petroleum product as is the synthetic rubber in the tires. Paraffin wax comes from petroleum, as do fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, detergents, phonograph records, photographic film, furniture, packaging materials, surfboards, paints and artificial fibers used in clothing, upholstery, and carpet backing. Helium, sulfur and other valuable materials are produced from oil wells along with petroleum itself. Petroleum is used principally as a source of fuel and lubricating oils. Only when these supplies are restricted or threatened does the average person begin to realize their importance.
The top three oil producing countries are Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States. About 80% of the world’s readily accessible reserves are located in the Middle East, with 62.5% coming from the five Arab countries: Saudi Arabia (12.5%), U.A.E., Iraq, Qatar and Kuwait. Millions of people around the world are employed to find or produce petroleum, ship and refine it and manufacture and market the many oils and waxes made from it.
Although there are many alternatives to petroleum fuels, an analysis of costs and benefits shows that petroleum is superior in most every area. Hydrogen, ethanol, hybrid, and biomass technologies are promising for automobiles and may soon increase efficiency and reduce emissions; but many of these technologies have not yet proven sufficiently profitable to providers or attractive to consumers. Petroleum retains a key advantage because the price of oil remains low compared to forms of energy with lower environmental impacts, like wind and solar power. Unlike hydrogen or even natural gas, oil is easily transportable and there is a vast infrastructure in place to support its use.
There are many factors due to which oil prices are rising but still petroleum is a necessity. These reasons are lack of available capacity across the oil supply chain in production, refinery upgrading and transportation infrastructure; surging demand in emerging economies; apparent insensitivity of consumers to the price signal; uncertainties related to the weather (hurricanes) or to politics (Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Nigeria); and increasing activity in the commodities markets. It is not very useful to blame any single player in the game. This could pose danger to the economy and business of the world.
Therefore, benefits of petroleum have brought enumerable benefits to human civilization: quality of life, dynamic prosperity and a source of income to energy traders.