Crude oil and hydrocarbons

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

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.