Crude oil and hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons are compounds that contain hydrogen and carbon atoms only.

Crude oil

Crude oil is a natural resource that is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons. The carbon atoms in these molecules are joined together in chains and rings. In the ball and stick models of simple hydrocarbons below, carbon atoms are black and hydrogen atoms are white.

Two examples of hydrocarbon molecule chains.Some examples of hydrocarbon molecules

Crude oil is a finite resource because it forms extremely slowly over millions of years and cannot quickly be replaced. However, crude oil is an important source of:

A feedstock is a raw material used to provide reactants for an industrial reaction. A petrochemical is a substance made from crude oil using chemical reactions. For example, ethene is produced from crude oil. It is used as feedstock to make poly(ethene), a polymer.

Scientists are always looking for new ways to make fuels, polymers and other important chemicals. However, crude oil is still the most important raw material for these chemicals.