Crude oil and hydrocarbons

Crude oil is a complex mixture of hydrocarbons. Hydrocarbons are compounds that contain hydrogen and carbon atoms only.

curriculum-key-fact
It is important in an exam to state that hydrocarbons contain only hydrogen and carbon atoms.

Uses of crude oil

Crude oil is an important source of:

Fuels obtained from crude oil or natural gas are called fossil fuels. They include:

  • petrol, kerosene and diesel oil from crude oil
  • methane from natural gas

These fuels are non-renewable - they are being used up faster than they are being formed.

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.

Almost all consumer goods require crude oil as part of the manufacturing process but crude oil is a finite resource. It forms extremely slowly over millions of years and is being used much faster than it can be replaced. It is important to balance the short-term benefits from fuels and materials crude oil produces with the need to conserve supplies for the future.