Petroleum is a naturally occurring, yellow-to-black liquid found in
geological formations beneath the Earth's surface. It is commonly
refined into various types of fuels. Components of petroleum are
separated using a technique called fractional distillation i.e.
separation of a liquid mixture into fractions differing in boiling
point by means of distillation, typically using a fractionating
It consists of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and other
organic compounds. The name petroleum covers both naturally
occurring unprocessed crude oil and petroleum products that are made
up of refined crude oil. A fossil fuel, petroleum is formed when large
quantities of dead organisms, usually zooplankton and algae, are
buried underneath sedimentary rock and subjected to both intense heat
Petroleum has mostly been recovered by oil drilling (natural petroleum
springs are rare). Drilling is carried out after studies of structural
geology (at the reservoir scale), sedimentary basin analysis, and
reservoir characterisation (mainly in terms of the porosity and
permeability of geologic reservoir structures) have been
completed. It is refined and separated, most easily by
distillation, into a large number of consumer products, from gasoline
(petrol) and kerosene to asphalt and chemical reagents used to make
plastics and pharmaceuticals.
Petroleum is used in manufacturing a
wide variety of materials, and it is estimated that the world
consumes about 95 million barrels each day.
Concern over the depletion of the earth's finite reserves of oil, and
the effect this would have on a society dependent on it, is a concept
known as peak oil. The use of fossil fuels, such as petroleum, has a
negative impact on Earth's biosphere, damaging ecosystems through
events such as oil spills and releasing a range of pollutants into the
air including ground-level ozone and sulfur dioxide from sulfur
impurities in fossil fuels. The burning of fossil fuels plays a major
role in the current episode of global warming.
2.1 Early history
2.2 Modern history
5 Empirical equations for thermal properties
5.1 Heat of combustion
5.2 Thermal conductivity
5.3 Specific heat
5.4 Latent heat of vaporization
6.1 Anaerobic decay or 1. phase of diagenesis
Kerogen formation or 2. phase of diagenesis
Kerogen to fossil fuels or catagenesis
6.4 Abiogenic petroleum
Unconventional oil reservoirs
11.2 Other derivatives
Petroleum by country
12.1 Consumption statistics
12.6 Oil Imports to the USA by country 2010
12.7 Non-producing consumers
13 Environmental effects
13.1 Ocean acidification
13.2 Global warming
13.4 Oil spills
14 Alternatives to petroleum
14.1 Alternatives to petroleum-based vehicle fuels
14.2 Alternatives to using oil in industry
14.3 Alternatives to burning petroleum for electricity
15 Future of petroleum production
15.1 Peak oil
15.2 Unconventional production
16 See also
19 Further reading
20 External links
Fractional distillation apparatus.
The word petroleum comes from Ancient Greek: πέτρα,
translit. petra, "rock" and
Latin oleum, "oil" from Ancient
Greek: ἔλαιον, translit. elaion.
The term was found (in the spelling "petraoleum") in 10th-century Old
English sources.[not in citation given] It was used in the
treatise De Natura Fossilium, published in 1546 by the German
mineralogist Georg Bauer, also known as Georgius Agricola. In the
19th century, the term petroleum was often used to refer to mineral
oils produced by distillation from mined organic solids such as cannel
coal (and later oil shale), and refined oils produced from them; in
the United Kingdom, storage (and later transport) of these oils were
regulated by a series of
Petroleum Acts, from the
Petroleum Act 1863
Main article: History of the petroleum industry
Oil derrick in Okemah, Oklahoma, 1922.
Petroleum, in one form or another, has been used since ancient times,
and is now important across society, including in economy, politics
and technology. The rise in importance was due to the invention of the
internal combustion engine, the rise in commercial aviation, and the
importance of petroleum to industrial organic chemistry, particularly
the synthesis of plastics, fertilisers, solvents, adhesives and
More than 4000 years ago, according to
Herodotus and Diodorus Siculus,
asphalt was used in the construction of the walls and towers of
Babylon; there were oil pits near Ardericca (near Babylon), and a
pitch spring on Zacynthus. Great quantities of it were found on
the banks of the river Issus, one of the tributaries of the Euphrates.
Ancient Persian tablets indicate the medicinal and lighting uses of
petroleum in the upper levels of their society.
The use of petroleum dates back to ancient
China more than 2000 years
ago. In I Ching, one of the earliest Chinese writings cites the use of
oil in its raw state without refining was first discovered, extracted,
and used in
China in the first century BCE. In addition, the Chinese
were the first to use petroleum as fuel as the early as the fourth
By 347 AD, oil was produced from bamboo-drilled wells in
China. Early British explorers to
Myanmar documented a
flourishing oil extraction industry based in
Yenangyaung that, in
1795, had hundreds of hand-dug wells under production.
Pechelbronn (Pitch fountain) is said to be the first European site
where petroleum has been explored and used. The still active
Erdpechquelle, a spring where petroleum appears mixed with water has
been used since 1498, notably for medical purposes.
Oil sands have
been mined since the 18th century.
Wietze in lower Saxony, natural asphalt/bitumen has been explored
since the 18th century. Both in Pechelbronn as in Wietze, the coal
industry dominated the petroleum technologies.
Proven world oil reserves, 2013. Unconventional reservoirs such as
natural heavy oil and oil sands are included.
Chemist James Young noticed a natural petroleum seepage in the
Riddings colliery at Alfreton,
Derbyshire from which he distilled a
light thin oil suitable for use as lamp oil, at the same time
obtaining a thicker oil suitable for lubricating machinery. In 1848
Young set up a small business refining the crude oil.
Young eventually succeeded, by distilling cannel coal at a low heat,
in creating a fluid resembling petroleum, which when treated in the
same way as the seep oil gave similar products. Young found that by
slow distillation he could obtain a number of useful liquids from it,
one of which he named "paraffine oil" because at low temperatures it
congealed into a substance resembling paraffin wax.
The production of these oils and solid paraffin wax from coal formed
the subject of his patent dated 17 October 1850. In 1850 Young &
Meldrum and Edward William Binney entered into partnership under the
title of E.W. Binney & Co. at
West Lothian and E.
Meldrum & Co. at Glasgow; their works at
Bathgate were completed
in 1851 and became the first truly commercial oil-works in the world
with the first modern oil refinery, using oil extracted from
locally mined torbanite, shale, and bituminous coal to manufacture
naphtha and lubricating oils; paraffin for fuel use and solid paraffin
were not sold until 1856.
Shale bings near Broxburn, 3 of a total of 19 in West Lothian.
The world's first oil refinery was built in 1856 by Ignacy
Łukasiewicz. His achievements also included the discovery of how
to distill kerosene from seep oil, the invention of the modern
kerosene lamp (1853), the introduction of the first modern street lamp
Europe (1853), and the construction of the world's first modern oil
The demand for petroleum as a fuel for lighting in North America and
around the world quickly grew. Edwin Drake's 1859 well near
Titusville, Pennsylvania, is popularly considered the first modern
well. Already 1858 Georg Christian Konrad Hunäus had found a
significant amount of petroleum while drilling for lignite 1858 in
Wietze later provided about 80% of the German
consumption in the Wilhelminian Era. The production stopped in
Wietze has hosted a
Petroleum Museum since 1970.
Drake's well is probably singled out because it was drilled, not dug;
because it used a steam engine; because there was a company associated
with it; and because it touched off a major boom. However, there
was considerable activity before Drake in various parts of the world
in the mid-19th century. A group directed by Major Alexeyev of the
Bakinskii Corps of Mining Engineers hand-drilled a well in the Baku
region in 1848. There were engine-drilled wells in West Virginia
in the same year as Drake's well. An early commercial well was
hand dug in
Poland in 1853, and another in nearby
Romania in 1857. At
around the same time the world's first, small, oil refinery was opened
Jasło in Poland, with a larger one opened at
Ploiești in Romania
Romania is the first country in the world to have had
its annual crude oil output officially recorded in international
statistics: 275 tonnes for 1857.
The first commercial oil well in
Canada became operational in 1858 at
Oil Springs, Ontario
Oil Springs, Ontario (then
Canada West). Businessman James Miller
Williams dug several wells between 1855 and 1858 before discovering a
rich reserve of oil four metres below ground.[specify] Williams
extracted 1.5 million litres of crude oil by 1860, refining much of it
into kerosene lamp oil. Williams's well became commercially viable a
year before Drake's Pennsylvania operation and could be argued to be
the first commercial oil well in North America. The discovery at
Oil Springs touched off an oil boom which brought hundreds of
speculators and workers to the area. Advances in drilling continued
into 1862 when local driller Shaw reached a depth of 62 metres using
the spring-pole drilling method. On January 16, 1862, after an
explosion of natural gas Canada's first oil gusher came into
production, shooting into the air at a recorded rate of 3,000 barrels
per day. By the end of the 19th century the Russian Empire,
Branobel company in Azerbaijan, had taken the lead in
Access to oil was and still is a major factor in several military
conflicts of the twentieth century, including World War II, during
which oil facilities were a major strategic asset and were extensively
bombed. The German invasion of the Soviet Union included the goal
to capture the Baku oilfields, as it would provide much needed
oil-supplies for the German military which was suffering from
blockades. Oil exploration in North America during the early 20th
century later led to the US becoming the leading producer by
mid-century. As petroleum production in the US peaked during the
1960s, however, the
United States was surpassed by
Saudi Arabia and
the Soviet Union.
Today, about 90 percent of vehicular fuel needs are met by oil.
Petroleum also makes up 40 percent of total energy consumption in the
United States, but is responsible for only 1 percent of electricity
generation. Petroleum's worth as a portable, dense energy source
powering the vast majority of vehicles and as the base of many
industrial chemicals makes it one of the world's most important
commodities. Viability of the oil commodity is controlled by several
key parameters, number of vehicles in the world competing for fuel,
quantity of oil exported to the world market (Export Land Model), net
energy gain (economically useful energy provided minus energy
consumed), political stability of oil exporting nations and ability to
defend oil supply lines.ci
The top three oil producing countries are Russia,
Saudi Arabia and the
United States. About 80 percent of the world's readily accessible
reserves are located in the Middle East, with 62.5 percent coming from
the Arab 5: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Iraq,
Kuwait. A large portion of the world's total oil exists as
unconventional sources, such as bitumen in
Athabasca oil sands
Athabasca oil sands and
extra heavy oil in the Orinoco Belt. While significant volumes of oil
are extracted from oil sands, particularly in Canada, logistical and
technical hurdles remain, as oil extraction requires large amounts of
heat and water, making its net energy content quite low relative to
conventional crude oil. Thus, Canada's oil sands are not expected to
provide more than a few million barrels per day in the foreseeable
In its strictest sense, petroleum includes only crude oil, but in
common usage it includes all liquid, gaseous and solid hydrocarbons.
Under surface pressure and temperature conditions, lighter
hydrocarbons methane, ethane, propane and butane occur as gases, while
pentane and heavier hydrocarbons are in the form of liquids or solids.
However, in an underground oil reservoir the proportions of gas,
liquid, and solid depend on subsurface conditions and on the phase
diagram of the petroleum mixture.
An oil well produces predominantly crude oil, with some natural gas
dissolved in it. Because the pressure is lower at the surface than
underground, some of the gas will come out of solution and be
recovered (or burned) as associated gas or solution gas. A gas well
produces predominantly natural gas. However, because the underground
temperature and pressure are higher than at the surface, the gas may
contain heavier hydrocarbons such as pentane, hexane, and heptane in
the gaseous state. At surface conditions these will condense out of
the gas to form "natural gas condensate", often shortened to
condensate. Condensate resembles gasoline in appearance and is similar
in composition to some volatile light crude oils.
The proportion of light hydrocarbons in the petroleum mixture varies
greatly among different oil fields, ranging from as much as 97 percent
by weight in the lighter oils to as little as 50 percent in the
heavier oils and bitumens.
The hydrocarbons in crude oil are mostly alkanes, cycloalkanes and
various aromatic hydrocarbons, while the other organic compounds
contain nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur, and trace amounts of metals such
as iron, nickel, copper and vanadium. Many oil reservoirs contain live
bacteria. The exact molecular composition of crude oil varies
widely from formation to formation but the proportion of chemical
elements varies over fairly narrow limits as follows:
Composition by weight
83 to 85%
10 to 14%
0.1 to 2%
0.05 to 1.5%
0.05 to 6.0%
Four different types of hydrocarbon molecules appear in crude oil. The
relative percentage of each varies from oil to oil, determining the
properties of each oil.
Composition by weight
15 to 60%
30 to 60%
3 to 30%
Unconventional resources are much larger than conventional ones.
Crude oil varies greatly in appearance depending on its composition.
It is usually black or dark brown (although it may be yellowish,
reddish, or even greenish). In the reservoir it is usually found in
association with natural gas, which being lighter forms a "gas cap"
over the petroleum, and saline water which, being heavier than most
forms of crude oil, generally sinks beneath it. Crude oil may also be
found in a semi-solid form mixed with sand and water, as in the
Athabasca oil sands
Athabasca oil sands in Canada, where it is usually referred to as
crude bitumen. In Canada, bitumen is considered a sticky, black,
tar-like form of crude oil which is so thick and heavy that it must be
heated or diluted before it will flow.
Venezuela also has large
amounts of oil in the Orinoco oil sands, although the hydrocarbons
trapped in them are more fluid than in
Canada and are usually called
extra heavy oil. These oil sands resources are called unconventional
oil to distinguish them from oil which can be extracted using
traditional oil well methods. Between them,
Canada and Venezuela
contain an estimated 3.6 trillion barrels (570×10^9 m3) of
bitumen and extra-heavy oil, about twice the volume of the world's
reserves of conventional oil.
Petroleum is used mostly, by volume, for producing fuel oil and
gasoline, both important "primary energy" sources. 84 percent by
volume of the hydrocarbons present in petroleum is converted into
energy-rich fuels (petroleum-based fuels), including gasoline, diesel,
jet, heating, and other fuel oils, and liquefied petroleum gas.
The lighter grades of crude oil produce the best yields of these
products, but as the world's reserves of light and medium oil are
depleted, oil refineries are increasingly having to process heavy oil
and bitumen, and use more complex and expensive methods to produce the
products required. Because heavier crude oils have too much carbon and
not enough hydrogen, these processes generally involve removing carbon
from 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 fuels.
Due to its high energy density, easy transportability and relative
abundance, oil has become the world's most important source of energy
since the mid-1950s.
Petroleum is also the raw material for many
chemical products, including pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers,
pesticides, and plastics; the 16 percent not used for energy
production is converted into these other materials.
Petroleum is found
in porous rock formations in the upper strata of some areas of the
Earth's crust. There is also petroleum in oil sands (tar sands). Known
oil reserves are typically estimated at around 190 km3 (1.2
trillion (short scale) barrels) without oil sands, or 595 km3
(3.74 trillion barrels) with oil sands. Consumption is currently
around 84 million barrels (13.4×10^6 m3) per day, or
4.9 km3 per year, yielding a remaining oil supply of only about
120 years, if current demand remains static.
Octane, a hydrocarbon found in petroleum. Lines represent single
bonds; black spheres represent carbon; white spheres represent
Petroleum is a mixture of a very large number of different
hydrocarbons; the most commonly found molecules are alkanes
(paraffins), cycloalkanes (naphthenes), aromatic hydrocarbons, or more
complicated chemicals like asphaltenes. Each petroleum variety has a
unique mix of molecules, which define its physical and chemical
properties, like color and viscosity.
The alkanes, also known as paraffins, are saturated hydrocarbons with
straight or branched chains which contain only carbon and hydrogen and
have the general formula CnH2n+2. They generally have from 5 to 40
carbon atoms per molecule, although trace amounts of shorter or longer
molecules may be present in the mixture.
The alkanes from pentane (C5H12) to octane (C8H18) are refined into
gasoline, the ones from nonane (C9H20) to hexadecane (C16H34) into
diesel fuel, kerosene and jet fuel. Alkanes with more than 16 carbon
atoms can be refined into fuel oil and lubricating oil. At the heavier
end of the range, paraffin wax is an alkane with approximately 25
carbon atoms, while asphalt has 35 and up, although these are usually
cracked by modern refineries into more valuable products. The shortest
molecules, those with four or fewer carbon atoms, are in a gaseous
state at room temperature. They are the petroleum gases. Depending on
demand and the cost of recovery, these gases are either flared off,
sold as liquefied petroleum gas under pressure, or used to power the
refinery's own burners. During the winter, butane (C4H10), is blended
into the gasoline pool at high rates, because its high vapor pressure
assists with cold starts. Liquified under pressure slightly above
atmospheric, it is best known for powering cigarette lighters, but it
is also a main fuel source for many developing countries.
be liquified under modest pressure, and is consumed for just about
every application relying on petroleum for energy, from cooking to
heating to transportation.
The cycloalkanes, also known as naphthenes, are saturated hydrocarbons
which have one or more carbon rings to which hydrogen atoms are
attached according to the formula CnH2n. Cycloalkanes have similar
properties to alkanes but have higher boiling points.
The aromatic hydrocarbons are unsaturated hydrocarbons which have one
or more planar six-carbon rings called benzene rings, to which
hydrogen atoms are attached with the formula CnH2n-6. They tend to
burn with a sooty flame, and many have a sweet aroma. Some are
These different molecules are separated by fractional distillation at
an oil refinery to produce gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, and other
hydrocarbons. For example, 2,2,4-trimethylpentane (isooctane), widely
used in gasoline, has a chemical formula of C8H18 and it reacts with
18(l) + 25 O
2(g) → 16 CO
2(g) + 18 H
2O(g) (ΔH = −5.51 MJ/mol of octane)
The number of various molecules in an oil sample can be determined by
laboratory analysis. The molecules are typically extracted in a
solvent, then separated in a gas chromatograph, and finally determined
with a suitable detector, such as a flame ionization detector or a
mass spectrometer. Due to the large number of co-eluted
hydrocarbons within oil, many cannot be resolved by traditional gas
chromatography and typically appear as a hump in the chromatogram.
This unresolved complex mixture (UCM) of hydrocarbons is particularly
apparent when analysing weathered oils and extracts from tissues of
organisms exposed to oil. Some of the component of oil will mix with
water: the water associated fraction of the oil.
Incomplete combustion of petroleum or gasoline results in production
of toxic byproducts. Too little oxygen during combustion results in
the formation of carbon monoxide. Due to the high temperatures and
high pressures involved, exhaust gases from gasoline combustion in car
engines usually include nitrogen oxides which are responsible for
creation of photochemical smog.
Empirical equations for thermal properties
Heat of combustion
At a constant volume, the heat of combustion of a petroleum product
can be approximated as follows:
displaystyle Q_ v =12 , 400-2 , 100d^ 2
displaystyle Q_ v
is measured in calories per gram and
is the specific gravity at 60 °F (16 °C).
The thermal conductivity of petroleum based liquids can be modeled as
displaystyle K= frac 1.62 API [1-0.0003(t-32)]
is measured in BTU · °F−1hr−1ft−1 ,
is measured in °F and
is degrees API gravity.
The specific heat of petroleum oils can be modeled as follows:
displaystyle c= frac 1 d [0.388+0.00046t]
is measured in BTU/(lb °F),
is the temperature in Fahrenheit and
is the specific gravity at 60 °F (16 °C).
In units of kcal/(kg·°C), the formula is:
displaystyle c= frac 1 d [0.4024+0.00081t]
where the temperature
is the specific gravity at 15 °C.
Latent heat of vaporization
The latent heat of vaporization can be modeled under atmospheric
conditions as follows:
displaystyle L= frac 1 d [110.9-0.09t]
is measured in BTU/lb,
is measured in °F and
is the specific gravity at 60 °F (16 °C).
In units of kcal/kg, the formula is:
displaystyle L= frac 1 d [194.4-0.162t]
where the temperature
is the specific gravity at 15 °C.
Structure of a vanadium porphyrin compound (left) extracted from
petroleum by Alfred E. Treibs, father of organic geochemistry. Treibs
noted the close structural similarity of this molecule and chlorophyll
Petroleum is a fossil fuel derived from ancient fossilized organic
materials, such as zooplankton and algae. Vast amounts of
these remains settled to sea or lake bottoms where they were covered
in stagnant water (water with no dissolved oxygen) or sediments such
as mud and silt faster than they could decompose aerobically.
Approximately 1 m below this sediment or water oxygen concentration
was low, below 0.1 mg/l, and anoxic conditions existed. Temperatures
also remained constant.
As further layers settled to the sea or lake bed, intense heat and
pressure built up in the lower regions. This process caused the
organic matter to change, first into a waxy material known as kerogen,
found in various oil shales around the world, and then with more heat
into liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons via a process known as
catagenesis. Formation of petroleum occurs from hydrocarbon pyrolysis
in a variety of mainly endothermic reactions at high temperature or
pressure, or both. These phases are decribed in detail below.
Anaerobic decay or 1. phase of diagenesis
In the absence of plentiful oxygen, aerobic bacteria were prevented
from decaying the organic matter after it was buried under a layer of
sediment or water. However, anaerobic bacteria were able to reduce
sulfates and nitrates among the matter to H2S and N2 respectively by
using the matter as a source for other reactants. Due to such
anaerobic bacteria, at first this matter began to break apart mostly
via hydrolysis: polysaccharides and proteins were hydrolyzed to simple
sugars and amino acids respectively. These were further anaerobically
oxidized at an accelerated rate by the enzymes of the bacteria: e.g.
amino acids went through oxidative deamination to imino acids, which
in turn reacted further to ammonia and α-keto acids. Monosaccharides
in turn ultimately decayed to CO2 and methane. The anaerobic decay
products of amino acids, monosaccharides, phenols and aldehydes
combined to fulvic acids. Fats and waxes were not extensively
hydrolyzed under these mild conditions.
Kerogen formation or 2. phase of diagenesis
Some phenolic compounds produced from previous reactions worked as
bactericides and actinomycetales order of bacteria produced antibiotic
compounds (e.g. streptomycin). Thus the action of anaerobic bacteria
ceased at about 10 m below the water or sediment. The mixture at this
depth contained fulvic acids, unreacted and partially reacted fats and
waxes, slightly modified lignin, resins and other hydrocarbons. As
more layers of organic matter settled to the sea or lake bed, intense
heat and pressure built up in the lower regions. As a consequence,
compounds of this mixture the began to combine in poorly understood
ways to kerogen. Combination happened in a similar fashion as phenol
and formaldehyde molecules react to urea-formaldehyde resins, but
kerogen formation occurred in a more complex manner due to a bigger
variety of reactants. The total process of kerogen formation from the
beginning of anaerobic decay is called diagenesis, a word that means a
transformation of materials by dissolution and recombination of their
Kerogen to fossil fuels or catagenesis
Kerogen formation continued to the depth of about 1 km from the
Earth's surface where temperatures may reach around 50 °C. Kerogen
formation represents a halfway point between organic matter and fossil
fuels: kerogen can be exposed to oxygen, oxidize and thus be lost or
it could be buried deeper inside the Earth's crust and be subjected to
conditions which allow it to slowly transform into fossil fuels like
petroleum. The latter happened trough catagenesis in which the
reactions were mostly radical rearrangements of kerogen. These
reactions took thousands to millions of years and no external
reactants were involved. Due to radical nature of these reactions,
kerogen reacted towards two classes of products: those with high
hydrogen/carbon ratio (anthracene or products similar to it) and those
with high H/C ratio (methane or products similar to it); i.e.
carbon-rich or hydrogen-rich products. Because catagenesis was closed
off from external reactants, the resulting composition of the fuel
mixture was dependent on the composition of the kerogen via reaction
stoichiometry. 3 main types of kerogen exist: type I (algal), II
(liptinic) and III (humic), which were formed mainly from algae,
plankton and woody plants (this term includes trees, shrubs and
Catagenesis was pyrolytic despite of the fact that it happened at
relatively low temperatures (when compared to commercial pyrolysis
plants) of 60 to several hundred °C.
Pyrolysis was possible because
of the long reaction times involved. Heat for catagenesis came from
the decomposition of radioactive materials of the crust, especially
40K, 232Th, 235U and 238U. The heat varied with geothermal gradient
and was typically 10-30 °C per km of depth from the Earth's surface.
Unusual magma intrusions, however, could have created greater
Geologists often refer to the temperature range in which oil forms as
an "oil window" - below the minimum temperature oil remains
trapped in the form of kerogen. Above the maximum temperature the oil
is converted to natural gas through the process of thermal cracking.
Sometimes, oil formed at extreme depths may migrate and become trapped
at a much shallower level. The
Athabasca Oil Sands
Athabasca Oil Sands are one example of
An alternative mechanism to the one described above was proposed by
Russian scientists in the mid-1850s, the hypothesis of abiogenic
petroleum origin (petroleum formed by inorganic means), but this is
contradicted by geological and geochemical evidence. Abiogenic
sources of oil have been found, but never in commercially profitable
amounts. "The controversy isn't over whether abiogenic oil reserves
exist," said Larry Nation of the American Association of Petroleum
Geologists. "The controversy is over how much they contribute to
Earth's overall reserves and how much time and effort geologists
should devote to seeking them out."
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Three conditions must be present for oil reservoirs to form:
a source rock rich in hydrocarbon material buried deeply enough for
subterranean heat to cook it into oil,
a porous and permeable reservoir rock where it can accumulate,
a caprock (seal) or other mechanism to prevent the oil from escaping
to the surface. Within these reservoirs, fluids will typically
organize themselves like a three-layer cake with a layer of water
below the oil layer and a layer of gas above it, although the
different layers vary in size between reservoirs. Because most
hydrocarbons are less dense than rock or water, they often migrate
upward through adjacent rock layers until either reaching the surface
or becoming trapped within porous rocks (known as reservoirs) by
impermeable rocks above. However, the process is influenced by
underground water flows, causing oil to migrate hundreds of kilometres
horizontally or even short distances downward before becoming trapped
in a reservoir. When hydrocarbons are concentrated in a trap, an oil
field forms, from which the liquid can be extracted by drilling and
The reactions that produce oil and natural gas are often modeled as
first order breakdown reactions, where hydrocarbons are broken down to
oil and natural gas by a set of parallel reactions, and oil eventually
breaks down to natural gas by another set of reactions. The latter set
is regularly used in petrochemical plants and oil refineries.
Wells are drilled into oil reservoirs to extract the crude oil.
"Natural lift" production methods that rely on the natural reservoir
pressure to force the oil to the surface are usually sufficient for a
while after reservoirs are first tapped. In some reservoirs, such as
in the Middle East, the natural pressure is sufficient over a long
time. The natural pressure in most reservoirs, however, eventually
dissipates. Then the oil must be extracted using "artificial lift"
means. Over time, these "primary" methods become less effective and
"secondary" production methods may be used. A common secondary method
is "waterflood" or injection of water into the reservoir to increase
pressure and force the oil to the drilled shaft or "wellbore."
Eventually "tertiary" or "enhanced" oil recovery methods may be used
to increase the oil's flow characteristics by injecting steam, carbon
dioxide and other gases or chemicals into the reservoir. In the United
States, primary production methods account for less than 40 percent of
the oil produced on a daily basis, secondary methods account for about
half, and tertiary recovery the remaining 10 percent. Extracting oil
(or "bitumen") from oil/tar sand and oil shale deposits requires
mining the sand or shale and heating it in a vessel or retort, or
using "in-situ" methods of injecting heated liquids into the deposit
and then pumping the liquid back out saturated with oil.
Unconventional oil reservoirs
See also: Unconventional oil, Oil sands, and
Oil shale reserves
Oil-eating bacteria biodegrade oil that has escaped to the surface.
Oil sands are reservoirs of partially biodegraded oil still in the
process of escaping and being biodegraded, but they contain so much
migrating oil that, although most of it has escaped, vast amounts are
still present—more than can be found in conventional oil reservoirs.
The lighter fractions of the crude oil are destroyed first, resulting
in reservoirs containing an extremely heavy form of crude oil, called
crude bitumen in Canada, or extra-heavy crude oil in Venezuela. These
two countries have the world's largest deposits of oil sands.[citation
On the other hand, oil shales are source rocks that have not been
exposed to heat or pressure long enough to convert their trapped
hydrocarbons into crude oil. Technically speaking, oil shales are not
always shales and do not contain oil, but are fined-grain sedimentary
rocks containing an insoluble organic solid called kerogen. The
kerogen in the rock can be converted into crude oil using heat and
pressure to simulate natural processes. The method has been known for
centuries and was patented in 1694 under British Crown Patent No. 330
covering, "A way to extract and make great quantities of pitch, tar,
and oil out of a sort of stone." Although oil shales are found in many
United States has the world's largest deposits.
Some marker crudes with their sulfur content (horizontal) and API
gravity (vertical) and relative production quantity.
See also: Benchmark (crude oil)
The petroleum industry generally classifies crude oil by the
geographic location it is produced in (e.g. West Texas Intermediate,
Brent, or Oman), its
API gravity (an oil industry measure of density),
and its sulfur content. Crude oil may be considered light if it has
low density or heavy if it has high density; and it may be referred to
as sweet if it contains relatively little sulfur or sour if it
contains substantial amounts of sulfur.
The geographic location is important because it affects transportation
costs to the refinery.
Light crude oil is more desirable than heavy
oil since it produces a higher yield of gasoline, while sweet oil
commands a higher price than sour oil because it has fewer
environmental problems and requires less refining to meet sulfur
standards imposed on fuels in consuming countries. Each crude oil has
unique molecular characteristics which are revealed by the use of
Crude oil assay analysis in petroleum laboratories.
Barrels from an area in which the crude oil's molecular
characteristics have been determined and the oil has been classified
are used as pricing references throughout the world. Some of the
common reference crudes are:
West Texas Intermediate
West Texas Intermediate (WTI), a very high-quality, sweet, light oil
Cushing, Oklahoma for North American oil
Brent Blend, consisting of 15 oils from fields in the Brent and Ninian
systems in the
East Shetland Basin of the North Sea. The oil is landed
Sullom Voe terminal in Shetland. Oil production from Europe, Africa
and Middle Eastern oil flowing West tends to be priced off this oil,
which forms a benchmark
Dubai-Oman, used as benchmark for Middle East sour crude oil flowing
to the Asia-Pacific region
Tapis (from Malaysia, used as a reference for light Far East oil)
Minas (from Indonesia, used as a reference for heavy Far East oil)
OPEC Reference Basket, a weighted average of oil blends from
OPEC (The Organization of the
Petroleum Exporting Countries)
Midway Sunset Heavy, by which heavy oil in California is
priced[not in citations given]
Western Canadian Select
Western Canadian Select the benchmark crude oil for emerging heavy,
high TAN (acidic) crudes.
There are declining amounts of these benchmark oils being produced
each year, so other oils are more commonly what is actually delivered.
While the reference price may be for
West Texas Intermediate
West Texas Intermediate delivered
at Cushing, the actual oil being traded may be a discounted Canadian
heavy oil—Western Canadian Select— delivered at Hardisty, Alberta,
and for a Brent Blend delivered at Shetland, it may be a discounted
Russian Export Blend delivered at the port of Primorsk.
This article needs to be updated. Please update this article to
reflect recent events or newly available information. (April 2016)
Crude oil export treemap (2012) from Harvard Atlas of Economic
New York Mercantile Exchange
New York Mercantile Exchange prices ($/bbl) for West Texas
Intermediate 2000 through Oct 2014.
The petroleum industry is involved in the global processes of
exploration, extraction, refining, transporting (often with oil
tankers and pipelines), and marketing petroleum products. The largest
volume products of the industry are fuel oil and gasoline. Petroleum
is also the raw material for many chemical products, including
pharmaceuticals, solvents, fertilizers, pesticides, and plastics. The
industry is usually divided into three major components: upstream,
midstream and downstream.
Midstream operations are usually included in
the downstream category.
Petroleum is vital to many industries, and is of importance to the
maintenance of industrialized civilization itself, and thus is a
critical concern to many nations. Oil accounts for a large percentage
of the world's energy consumption, ranging from a low of 32 percent
Europe and Asia, up to a high of 53 percent for the Middle East,
South and Central America (44%), Africa (41%), and North America
(40%). The world at large consumes 30 billion barrels (4.8 km³)
of oil per year, and the top oil consumers largely consist of
developed nations. In fact, 24 percent of the oil consumed in 2004
went to the
United States alone, though by 2007 this had dropped
to 21 percent of world oil consumed.
In the US, in the states of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada,
Oregon and Washington, the
Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA)
represents companies responsible for producing, distributing,
refining, transporting and marketing petroleum. This non-profit trade
association was founded in 1907, and is the oldest petroleum trade
association in the United States.
In the 1950s, shipping costs made up 33 percent of the price of oil
transported from the
Persian Gulf to USA, but due to the
development of supertankers in the 1970s, the cost of shipping dropped
to only 5 percent of the price of Persian oil in USA. Due to the
increase of the value of the crude oil during the last 30 years, the
share of the shipping cost on the final cost of the delivered
commodity was less than 3% in 2010. For example, in 2010 the shipping
cost from the
Persian Gulf to the USA was in the range of 20 $/t and
the cost of the delivered crude oil around 800 $/t.
Nominal and inflation-adjusted US dollar price of crude oil,
Main article: Price of oil
After the collapse of the OPEC-administered pricing system in 1985,
and a short-lived experiment with netback pricing, oil-exporting
countries adopted a market-linked pricing mechanism. First adopted by
PEMEX in 1986, market-linked pricing was widely accepted, and by 1988
became and still is the main method for pricing crude oil in
international trade. The current reference, or pricing markers, are
Brent, WTI, and Dubai/Oman.
The chemical structure of petroleum is heterogeneous, composed of
hydrocarbon chains of different lengths. Because of this, petroleum
may be taken to oil refineries and the hydrocarbon chemicals separated
by distillation and treated by other chemical processes, to be used
for a variety of purposes. The total cost of a plant is about 9
billion dollars per plant.
A poster used to promote carpooling as a way to ration gasoline during
World War II.
The most common distillation fractions of petroleum are fuels. Fuels
include (by increasing boiling temperature range):
Common fractions of petroleum as fuels
Boiling range oC
Liquefied petroleum gas
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG)
−12 to −1
−1 to 110
150 to 205
205 to 260
205 to 290
260 to 315
Petroleum classification according to chemical composition.
Class of petroleum
Composition of 250–300 °C fraction,
Certain types of resultant hydrocarbons may be mixed with other
non-hydrocarbons, to create other end products:
Alkenes (olefins), which can be manufactured into plastics or other
Lubricants (produces light machine oils, motor oils, and greases,
adding viscosity stabilizers as required)
Wax, used in the packaging of frozen foods, among others
Sulfur or sulfuric acid. These are useful industrial materials.
Sulfuric acid is usually prepared as the acid precursor oleum, a
byproduct of sulfur removal from fuels.
Petroleum coke, used in speciality carbon products or as solid fuel
Aromatic petrochemicals to be used as precursors in other chemical
Since the 1940s, agricultural productivity has increased dramatically,
due largely to the increased use of energy-intensive mechanization,
fertilizers and pesticides.
Petroleum by country
Global fossil carbon emissions, an indicator of consumption, from
Rate of world energy usage per year from 1970.
Daily oil consumption from 1980 to 2006.
Oil consumption by percentage of total per region from 1980 to 2006:
Asia and Oceania
Oil consumption 1980 to 2007 by region.
According to the US
Energy Information Administration
Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimate
for 2011, the world consumes 87.421 million barrels of oil each day.
Oil consumption per capita (darker colors represent more consumption,
gray represents no data) (source: see file description).
0.07 - 0.05
0.05 - 0.035
0.035 - 0.025
0.025 - 0.02
0.02 - 0.015
0.015 - 0.01
0.01 - 0.005
0.005 - 0.0015
This table orders the amount of petroleum consumed in 2011 in thousand
barrels (1000 bbl) per day and in thousand cubic metres (1000 m3) per
Consuming nation 2011
United States 1
Saudi Arabia (OPEC)
South Korea 2
United Kingdom 1
Source: US Energy Information Administration
1 peak production of oil already passed in this state
2 This country is not a major oil producer
For oil production by country, see List of countries by oil
For oil reserves by country, see List of countries by proven oil
Top oil-producing countries (million barrels per day).
World map with countries by oil production (information from
In petroleum industry parlance, production refers to the quantity of
crude extracted from reserves, not the literal creation of the
Saudi Arabia (OPEC)
China, People's Republic of
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates (OPEC)
Fossil fuel exporters and OPEC
Petroleum Exports by Country (2014) from Harvard Atlas of Economic
Oil exports by country (barrels per day, 2006).
In order of net exports in 2011, 2009 and 2006 in thousand bbl/d and
Saudi Arabia (OPEC)
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates (OPEC)
Venezuela (OPEC) 1
Algeria (OPEC) 1
Trinidad and Tobago
Trinidad and Tobago 1
Source: US Energy Information Administration
1 peak production already passed in this state
2 Canadian statistics are complicated by the fact it is both an
importer and exporter of crude oil, and refines large amounts of oil
for the U.S. market. It is the leading source of U.S. imports of oil
and products, averaging 2,500,000 bbl/d (400,000 m3/d) in
Total world production/consumption (as of 2005) is approximately 84
million barrels per day (13,400,000 m3/d).
Oil imports by country (barrels per day, 2006).
In order of net imports in 2011, 2009 and 2006 in thousand bbl/d and
United States 1
Source: US Energy Information Administration
1 peak production of oil expected in 2020
2 Major oil producer whose production is still increasing[citation
Oil Imports to the USA by country 2010
Oil imports to US, 2010.
Countries whose oil production is 10% or less of their consumption.
Source: CIA World Factbook[not in citation given]
Main article: Environmental impact of the petroleum industry
Diesel fuel spill on a road.
Because petroleum is a naturally occurring substance, its presence in
the environment need not be the result of human causes such as
accidents and routine activities (seismic exploration, drilling,
extraction, refining and combustion). Phenomena such as seeps and
tar pits are examples of areas that petroleum affects without man's
involvement. Regardless of source, petroleum's effects when released
into the environment are similar.
Ocean acidification is the increase in the acidity of the Earth's
oceans caused by the uptake of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the
atmosphere. This increase in acidity inhibits all marine life –
having a greater impact on smaller organisms as well as shelled
organisms (see scallops).
When burned, petroleum releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas.
Along with the burning of coal, petroleum combustion may be the
largest contributor to the increase in atmospheric CO2.[citation
needed] Atmospheric CO2 has risen over the last 150 years to current
levels of over 390 ppmv, from the 180 – 300 ppmv of the
prior 800 thousand years This rise in temperature may have
reduced the Arctic ice cap to 1,100,000 sq mi
(2,800,000 km2), smaller than ever recorded.
Because of this melt, more oil reserves have been revealed. It is
estimated by the
International Energy Agency
International Energy Agency that about 13 percent of
the world's undiscovered oil resides in the Arctic.
Oil extraction is simply the removal of oil from the reservoir (oil
pool). Oil is often recovered as a water-in-oil emulsion, and
specialty chemicals called demulsifiers are used to separate the oil
from water. Oil extraction is costly and sometimes environmentally
damaging. Offshore exploration and extraction of oil disturbs the
surrounding marine environment.
Oil spill and List of oil spills
Kelp after an oil spill.
Oil slick from the
Montara oil spill
Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea, September,
Volunteers cleaning up the aftermath of the Prestige oil spill.
Crude oil and refined fuel spills from tanker ship accidents have
damaged natural ecosystems in Alaska, the Gulf of Mexico, the
France and many other places.
The quantity of oil spilled during accidents has ranged from a few
hundred tons to several hundred thousand tons (e.g., Deepwater Horizon
oil spill, SS Atlantic Empress, Amoco Cadiz). Smaller spills have
already proven to have a great impact on ecosystems, such as the Exxon
Valdez oil spill.
Oil spills at sea are generally much more damaging than those on land,
since they can spread for hundreds of nautical miles in a thin oil
slick which can cover beaches with a thin coating of oil. This can
kill sea birds, mammals, shellfish and other organisms it coats. Oil
spills on land are more readily containable if a makeshift earth dam
can be rapidly bulldozed around the spill site before most of the oil
escapes, and land animals can avoid the oil more easily.
Control of oil spills is difficult, requires ad hoc methods, and often
a large amount of manpower. The dropping of bombs and incendiary
devices from aircraft on the SS Torrey Canyon wreck produced poor
results; modern techniques would include pumping the oil from the
wreck, like in the
Prestige oil spill
Prestige oil spill or the Erika oil spill.
Though crude oil is predominantly composed of various hydrocarbons,
certain nitrogen heterocylic compounds, such as pyridine, picoline,
and quinoline are reported as contaminants associated with crude oil,
as well as facilities processing oil shale or coal, and have also been
found at legacy wood treatment sites. These compounds have a very high
water solubility, and thus tend to dissolve and move with water.
Certain naturally occurring bacteria, such as Micrococcus,
Rhodococcus have been shown to degrade these
A tarball is a blob of crude oil (not to be confused with tar, which
is a man-made product derived from pine trees or refined from
petroleum) which has been weathered after floating in the ocean.
Tarballs are an aquatic pollutant in most environments, although they
can occur naturally, for example in the Santa Barbara Channel of
California or in the Gulf of
Mexico off Texas. Their
concentration and features have been used to assess the extent of oil
spills. Their composition can be used to identify their sources of
origin, and tarballs themselves may be dispersed over long
distances by deep sea currents. They are slowly decomposed by
bacteria, including Chromobacterium violaceum, Cladosporium resinae,
Micrococcus varians, Pseudomonas aeruginosa,
Candida marina and Saccharomyces estuari.
James S. Robbins has argued that the advent of petroleum-refined
kerosene saved some species of great whales from extinction by
providing an inexpensive substitute for whale oil, thus eliminating
the economic imperative for open-boat whaling.
Alternatives to petroleum
Further information: Renewable energy
United States in 2007 about 70 percent of petroleum was used
for transportation (e.g. gasoline, diesel, jet fuel), 24 percent by
industry (e.g. production of plastics), 5 percent for residential and
commercial uses, and 2 percent for electricity production.
Outside of the US, a higher proportion of petroleum tends to be used
Alternatives to petroleum-based vehicle fuels
Alternative fuel vehicle,
Hydrogen economy, and Green
Brazilian fuel station with four alternative fuels for sale: diesel
(B3), gasohol (E25), neat ethanol (E100), and compressed natural gas
Alternative fuel vehicles refers to both:
Vehicles that use alternative fuels used in standard or modified
internal combustion engines such as natural gas vehicles, neat ethanol
vehicles, flexible-fuel vehicles, biodiesel-powered vehicles, propane
autogas, and hydrogen vehicles.
Vehicles with advanced propulsion systems that reduce or substitute
petroleum use such as battery electric vehicles, plug-in hybrid
electric vehicles, hybrid electric vehicles, and hydrogen fuel cell
Alternatives to using oil in industry
Biological feedstocks do exist for industrial uses such as Bioplastic
Alternatives to burning petroleum for electricity
Main articles: Alternative energy, Nuclear power, and Renewable energy
In oil producing countries with little refinery capacity, oil is
sometimes burned to produce electricity.
Renewable energy technologies
such as solar power, wind power, micro hydro, biomass and biofuels are
used, but the primary alternatives remain large-scale
hydroelectricity, nuclear and coal-fired generation.
Future of petroleum production
US oil production and imports, 1910-2012.
Consumption in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been
abundantly pushed by automobile sector growth. The 1985–2003 oil
glut even fueled the sales of low fuel economy vehicles in OECD
countries. The 2008 economic crisis seems to have had some impact on
the sales of such vehicles; still, in 2008 oil consumption showed a
In 2016 Goldman Sachs predicted lower demand for oil due to emerging
economies concerns, especially China. The
BRICS (Brasil, Russia,
India, China, South Africa) countries might also kick in, as China
briefly was the first automobile market in December 2009. The
immediate outlook still hints upwards. In the long term, uncertainties
OPEC believes that the
OECD countries will push low
consumption policies at some point in the future; when that happens,
it will definitely curb oil sales, and both
OPEC and the Energy
Information Administration (EIA) kept lowering their 2020 consumption
estimates during the past five years. A detailed review of IEA
oil projections have revealed that revisions of world oil production,
price and investments have been motivated by a combination of demand
and supply factors. All together, Non-
projections have been fairly stable the last 15 years, while downward
revisions were mainly allocated to OPEC. Recent upward revisions are
primarily a result of US tight oil.
Production will also face an increasingly complex situation; while
OPEC countries still have large reserves at low production prices,
newly found reservoirs often lead to higher prices; offshore giants
such as Tupi, Guara and Tiber demand high investments and
ever-increasing technological abilities. Subsalt reservoirs such as
Tupi were unknown in the twentieth century, mainly because the
industry was unable to probe them.
Enhanced Oil Recovery
Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR)
techniques (example: DaQing, China ) will continue to play a
major role in increasing the world's recoverable oil.
The expected of available petroleum resources has always been around
35 years or even less since the start of the modern exploration. The
oil constant, a insider pun in the German industry refers to that
Main article: Peak oil
Global peak oil forecast.
Peak oil is the projection that future petroleum production (whether
for individual oil wells, entire oil fields, whole countries, or
worldwide production) will eventually peak and then decline at a
similar rate to the rate of increase before the peak as these reserves
are exhausted. The peak of oil discoveries was in 1965, and oil
production per year has surpassed oil discoveries every year since
1980. However, this does not mean that potential oil production
has surpassed oil demand.
Hubbert applied his theory to accurately predict the peak of U.S.
conventional oil production at a date between 1966 and 1970. This
prediction was based on data available at the time of his publication
in 1956. In the same paper, Hubbert predicts world peak oil in "half a
century" after his publication, which would be 2006.
It is difficult to predict the oil peak in any given region, due to
the lack of knowledge and/or transparency in accounting of global oil
reserves. Based on available production data, proponents have
previously predicted the peak for the world to be in years 1989, 1995,
or 1995–2000. Some of these predictions date from before the
recession of the early 1980s, and the consequent reduction in global
consumption, the effect of which was to delay the date of any peak by
several years. Just as the 1971 U.S. peak in oil production was only
clearly recognized after the fact, a peak in world production will be
difficult to discern until production clearly drops off. The peak
is also a moving target as it is now measured as "liquids", which
includes synthetic fuels, instead of just conventional oil.
International Energy Agency
International Energy Agency (IEA) said in 2010 that production of
conventional crude oil had peaked in 2006 at 70 MBBL/d, then flattened
at 68 or 69 thereafter. Since virtually all economic sectors
rely heavily on petroleum, peak oil, if it were to occur, could lead
to a "partial or complete failure of markets". In the mid-2000s,
widespread fears of an imminent peak led to the "peak oil movement,"
in which over one hundred thousand Americans prepared, individually
and collectively, for the "post-carbon" future.
The calculus for peak oil has changed with the introduction of
unconventional production methods. In particular, the combination of
horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has resulted in a
significant increase in production from previously uneconomic
plays. Analysts expect that $150 billion will be spent on further
developing North American tight oil fields in 2015. The large increase
in tight oil production is one of the reasons behind the price drop in
late 2014. Certain rock strata contain hydrocarbons but have low
permeability and are not thick from a vertical perspective.
Conventional vertical wells would be unable to economically retrieve
these hydrocarbons. Horizontal drilling, extending horizontally
through the strata, permits the well to access a much greater volume
of the strata.
Hydraulic fracturing creates greater permeability and
increases hydrocarbon flow to the wellbore.
Barrel of oil equivalent
Gas oil ratio
List of oil exploration and production companies
List of oil fields
Manure-derived synthetic crude oil
Total petroleum hydrocarbon
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Wikimedia Commons has media related to Petroleum.
Wikisource has the text of the 1905 New International Encyclopedia
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Who are the major players supplying the world oil market?
Petroleum and Crude Oil
Petroleum Online e-Learning resource from IHRDC
Petroleum Community Forum
Geo ExPro (
Petroleum Geoscience Magazine)
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Natural petroleum - intensification distillation, increase volume of
Crude: 2007 Australian Broadcasting Corporation documentary about the
OPEC Reference Basket
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