Crude oil and its uses

Crude oil is created from fossils under special environmental conditions in a process that takes millions of years. Crude oil is used as an energy source and as raw material for many of the products we use daily. As long as we do not know how to produce a less expensive substitute for crude oil and its uses, it will continue to be, in principle, an irreplaceable and nonrenewable resource. Crude oil is generally extracted in liquid form and consists of a mixture of hydrocarbons. These contain large amounts of stored energy in the form of hydrocarbon bonds, which is one reason why crude oil is often used as fuel. Crude oil molecules are the building stones for a large number of different chemical structures that are easy to process into new forms. Therefore, crude oil is a precursor for many other natural resources, and crude oil derivatives are used all over the world.

Crude oil is extracted on almost every continent, but more than 30% comes from the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia leading with a production of 13 %. Two additional important oil suppliers are Russia and the USA, each supplying nearly 12%. The USA, China and Japan dominate the list of countries by crude oil consumption, which together consume nearly 40% of the world’s total crude oil consumption. The USA is at the top, with Europe not far behind, in the amount of oil per capita. One barrel of oil is consumed every day by approximately 23 people in North America. Consumption is lowest in Africa, where one barrel of oil is consumed by 284.


Since crude oil is extracted from the ground, it contains sulfur, which has a corrosive effect on machinery. A low sulfur content in crude oil is therefore better. Crude oil that only contains a small amount of sulfur is called “sweet.” Premiums are paid for sweet crude oil, and for crude oil with lower density since these forms are easier to refine. Since crude oil is not used as a product in itself, the long processing begins as soon as the crude oil is pumped out of the ground. The processing of crude oil begins with a refining process that is done at a very high temperature. The sulfur that is removed is not waste but is actually a very important byproduct, often used as industrial material and fertilizer. Sulfur that is allowed to react with carbon results in carbon disulfide, which in turn is used in large amounts in the process to modify cellulose to viscose. Additional products in this chain include rayon fibers, which are used in the manufacturing of textiles and also cellophane, a well-known packaging material for food items and a base for self-adhesive tape, and which also have many other industrial applications. The amounts stated are approximated. More than 159 liters of products can be drawn from one barrel of crude oil since the derivatives can have a lower density. After all the conversions and thermal and chemical processes that are involved in the processing of crude oil, approximately 20 liters of gasoline are derived from each barrel of around 159 liters. There are approximately 700 million cars in the world today that are dependent on gasoline as its primary fuel. An additional 20% (approximately 32 liters) from one barrel of oil is produced into diesel oil, which is not only used as a fuel on land and sea but can also be used for heating. Approximately 7.6 liters per barrel go towards making gasol (Liquid Petroleum Gas). Other products that can be derived are naphtha (which is used in cosmetics and rubber production), kerosene, lubricants, various forms of wax (which is commonly used in frozen food packaging), bitumen (asphalt), aromatic petrochemicals, olefins, etc. However, the chain does not end here but continues with conversion until a number of other end products have been derived. End products consist of, for example, tires, plastic bottles, paint, camera film, credit cards, plastic bags, clothes, perfume, furniture and toothpaste! The list is nearly endless – it’s just a shame that the supply of crude oil isn’t.