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What is crude oil?

Frequently asked questions about crude oil Crude oil is a naturally-occurring substance found trapped in certain rocks below the earth's crust. It is a dark, sticky liquid which, scientifically speaking, is classed as a hydrocarbon. This means, it is a compound containing only hydrogen and carbon. Crude oil is highly flammable and can be burned to create energy. Along with its sister hydrocarbon, natural gas, crude oil makes an excellent fuel.

How is crude oil measured?

Crude oil is measured in barrels. When crude oil first came into large-scale commercial use in the United States in the 19th century, it was stored in wooden barrels. One barrel equals 42 US gallons, or 159 litres.

How much crude oil reserves exist in the world?

World crude oil reserves are estimated at more than one trillion barrels, of which the 11 OPEC Member Countries hold more than 78 per cent. OPEC's Members in 2004 produced around 29.6 million barrels per day of crude oil, or some 42 per cent of the world total output, which stood at about 70.6 million barrels per day.

What are the uses of crude oil?

Burning crude oil itself, however, is of limited use. To extract the maximum value from crude, it first needs to be refined into other products. The best-known of these is gasoline, or petrol. However, there are many other products that can be obtained when a barrel of crude oil is refined. These include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, kerosene, gasoil and fuel oil. All of these are fuels. Other useful products which are not fuels can also be manufactured by refining crude oil, such as lubricants and asphalt (used in paving roads). A range of sub-items like perfumes and insecticides are also ultimately derived from crude oil. Furthermore, several of the products listed above which are derived from crude oil, such as naphtha, gasoil, LPG and ethane, can themselves be used as inputs or feedstocks in the production of petrochemicals. There are more than 4,000 different petrochemical products, but those which are considered as basic products include ethylene, propylene, butadiene, benzene, ammonia and

methanol. The main groups of petrochemical end-products are plastics, synthetic fibres, synthetic rubbers, detergents and chemical fertilisers. Considering the vast number of products that are derived from it, crude oil is a very versatile substance. Life as we know it today would be extremely difficult without crude oil and its byproducts.