Sunday, April 20, 2008


Petroleum (L. Petroleum lit. "rock oil" was first used in 1556 in a treatise published by the German mineralogist Georg Bauer, known as Georgius Agricola.) is a naturally occurring, flammable liquid found in rock formations in the Earth consisting of a complex mixture of hydrocarbons of various molecular weights, plus other organic compounds. The proportion of hydrocarbons in the mixture is highly variable and ranges from as much as 97% by weight in the lighter oils to as little as 50% 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. The exact molecular composition varies widely from formation to formation but the proportion of chemical elements vary over fairly narrow limits as follows:
<1000 ppm

Crude oil varies greatly in appearance depending on its composition. It is usually black or dark brown (although it may be yellowish 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 generally floats underneath it. Crude oil may also be found in semi-solid form mixed with sand, as in the Athabasca oil sands in Canada, where it may be referred to as crude bitumen.
Petroleum is used mostly, by volume, for producing fuel oil and gasoline (petrol), both important "primary energy" sources. 84% 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.
Due to its high energy density, easy transportability and relative abundance, it 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% 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 reserves of petroleum are typically estimated at around 140 km³ (1.2 trillion (short scale) barrels) without oil sands,or 440 km³ (3.74 trillion barrels) with oil sands.Consumption is currently around 84 million barrels (1.34 × 107 m3) per day, or 3.6 km³ per year. Because the energy return over energy invested (EROEI) ratio of oil is constantly falling as petroleum recovery gets more difficult, recoverable oil reserves are significantly less than total oil-in-place. At current consumption levels, and assuming that oil will be consumed only from reservoirs, known recoverable reserves would be gone around 2039, potentially leading to a global energy crisis. However, there are factors which may extend or reduce this estimate, including the rapidly increasing demand for petroleum in China, India, and other developing nations; new discoveries; energy conservation and use of alternative energy sources; and new econonomically viable exploitation of non-conventional oil sources.
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