Inside a Barrel of Crude Oil
Many people think of crude oil as a thick, black liquid that is used for gasoline. The reality is that each barrel of oil is refined to be used in a variety of applications that include fuel, cosmetics, plastics, rubber, and candle wax.
What is crude oil and what are petroleum products?
Crude oil is a mixture of hydrocarbons that formed from plants and animals that lived millions of years ago. Crude oil is a fossil fuel, and it exists in liquid form in underground pools or reservoirs, in tiny spaces within sedimentary rocks, and near the surface in tar (or oil) sands. Petroleum products are fuels made from crude oil and other hydrocarbons contained in natural gas. Petroleum products can also be made from coal, natural gas, and biomass.
Products made from crude oil
After crude oil is removed from the ground, it is sent to a refinery where different parts of the crude oil are separated into useable petroleum products. Did you know that aspirin is a petroleum product? How about food coloring and vape juice? If you dress up your smile with some lipstick, your favorite brand might just be a petroleum product, too.
Every time you reach for something plastic or something made from synthetic rubber, you’ve got yourself your very own petroleum product. Glasses? Check. Styrofoam? Check. Even money contains elements of petroleum.
Here are a few other examples of what comes from a barrel of oil.
- Nearly 70 kWh of electricity at a power plant generated by residual fuel
- About 4 lbs. of charcoal briquettes
- Enough propane to fill 12 small cylinders for home, camping, or workshop use
- Asphalt to make about one gallon of tar for patching roofs or streets
- Wax for birthday candles or crayons
- Polyester shirts
A U.S. 42-gallon barrel of crude oil yields about 45 gallons of petroleum products in U.S. refineries because of refinery processing gain. This increase in volume is similar to what happens to popcorn when it is popped.
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