Crude oil and natural gas are called hydrocarbons because both are composed of carbon and hydrogen atoms.
Natural gas molecules are generally shorter; four carbon atoms or less. Crude oil molecules contain five or more
carbon atoms per molecule. Crude oil is described as “crude” for a simple reason: It contains dozens of different
hydrocarbon compounds. Light sweet crude oil is the form of petroleum that oil refineries prefer because it contains
exceptionally high amounts of the chemicals needed to produce gasoline, kerosene, and high-quality crude oil.
It is “light” because it has low density and flows at a temperature of 60 degrees. Density is the heaviness of the
oil and is generally measured by the American Petrochemical
Institute (API) gravity. Typically, light crude has an API gravity
greater than 10 and will float on water. (Heavier crude has an
API gravity of less than 10 and sinks in water.)
“Sweet” is a description of how much sulphur is in the oil. In
the 19th century, oil workers would taste and smell small
amount of oil to determine its quality. Crude oil with low sulphur content had a mildly sweet taste and pleasant smell. Today, oil workers can measure
the sulphur content of an oil sample and it is classified as sweet if it contains less than 0.5%
Light sweet crude contains lower levels of other impurities such as wax. This allows it to flow
at room temperature. The lack of impurities and the lower density of the oil mean that it is
easier to get out of the ground, transport and refine than heavier crude oils. But because of
its popularity it is more expensive to buy.
Human beings have been using light sweet crude oil for at least 4,000 years. Herodotus, an
ancient Greek historian, reported that asphalt, which is extracted from crude oil, was used
to build the walls of Babylon and it has been used throughout the world since that time.
However, it wasn’t until the invention of the internal combustion engine, that the demand
for light sweet crude oil exploded.
Light sweet crude oil is refined to make gasoline, kerosene, jet fuel, and heating oil. Because
of the high demand for it around the world, the price of light sweet crude oil is very sensitive
to economic changes.
• Light Crude has an API gravity higher than 31.1 °API.
• Medium Crude has an API gravity between 22.3 °API and 31.1 °API.
• Heavy Crude has an API gravity below 22.3 °API.
Crude oil is the most important natural resource of the industrialized nations. It can generate
heat, drive machinery and fuel vehicles and airplanes. Its components are used to manufacture
almost all chemical products, such as plastics, detergents, paints, and even medicines. As it
is such an important resource it is very important to expand our technical ability to discover
new sources and extend the production lives of existing oil fields.
Life without oil? Impossible! Within our daily lives oil is used almost everywhere: Every year,
18 million tons of crude oil are processed into synthetic materials in Germany. Oil within
our materials: 40 percent of all textiles contain oil; for functional clothing this may be as
much as 100 percent. Oil within our leisure activities: 40 billion liters of oil a year are used to
make CDs and DVDs. Oil helps us relax: A single sofa contains 60 liters of oil. Modern life is
inconceivable without crude oil. The world consumes almost 14 billion liters of oil each day.
This affects us all.
Top uses of Crude Oil
• Gasoline (Used to fuel cars)
• Heating Oil (Used to heat buildings), and Diesel Fuel
• Other Products
• Jet Fuel
• Residual Fuel Oil (powering factories, fueling large ships, and making electricity)
Other uses of crude oil
Plastic - This is probably the most widespread use of oil that
I can think of. Plastic is used in just about everything that you
can find in a store. If an item doesn’t contain plastic, then it is
probably stored or packaged in the oil based polymer! Plastic
is also used in the production of computer cases, shoes, car
bumpers, kids toys, and thousands of other everyday items.
Just take a quick look at every electronic device that you
own (cell phone, MP3 player, cameras, routers, speakers, etc),
and you’ll be sure to find plastic. Because of it’s far-reaching
impact, this has to be one of the most important uses of crude
oil! In fact, many of the items on this list appear here simply because of their heavy reliance on plastics. Clothing - Petroleum is used to help make clothing non-flammable and colorful. It is used in the production of
rayon, nylon, polyester, and even artificial furs. Also, hangers are strengthened by petroleum-based resins. Furniture - According to Conoco Phillips, couch cushions are often filled with durable, lightweight polyurethane
foam. Also, if you have carpet or linoleum flooring, you probably have a petroleum based product in your home. Insulation - The insulation that you find in your home –
which keeps unwanted heat from escaping or entering
– is a petroleum based product! This means that we
depend on crude oil to regulate the temperature in our
homes in more ways than we realize. Kitchen Items - There are a number of items in
your kitchen that rely on petroleum as a part of their
production. For your refrigerator, the molded interior
panels, door liners, and even the foam insulation are all manufactured using crude oil. Many stoves function by
using natural gas. Most of us now use non-stick pots and
pans. The coating that provides temperature resistance
(PTFE) is created by using petroleum. Cars - I already mentioned above that many car
bumpers are made with plastics. However, that’s not the
only place where crude oil is used in the manufacturing
of your car. In the same Conoco Phillips infographic, it
tells us that: High-performance plastics have replaced heavier materials throughout the average vehicle – from
the interior to the engine block – reducing weight and
improving fuel economy, and enhancing safety. Crude oil is
also important in the production of you car’s hoses, wiring,
and many fluids (antifreeze, brake fluid, transmission fluid,
motor oil, and lubricating grease). Food - Yes, crude oil plays a part in the growth of your
food. Fertilizer is something that relies on petroleum;
thus, when the price of oil goes up, it gets more expensive
to grow food. Many of our food items are stored and
or packaged in plastics as well; meaning that crude oil
plays a large part in the production of your food. This is
one of the things that makes high oil prices so scary. If it
costs more money to grow, store, package, transport, and
regulate the temperature of our food, then that cost will
be passed on to the consumers! What This Means For Us.
The price of crude oil means a lot more to us than just
paying a few dollars more at the pump. As we can see, oil is important to the production and transportation of many of the items that we use on a regular basis. This means
that many sectors of the economy will be adversely affected by increasing oil prices, or helped when they go down!
I guess this will really crush the dreams of those who try to organize a gas boycott when prices are high!