Crude oil and hydrocarbons

Hydrocarbons are compounds that contain hydrogen and carbon atoms only.

Crude oil

Crude oil is a finite resource that is found in the Earth’s crust. It is the remains of organisms that lived and died millions of years ago - mainly plankton which was buried in mud.

Crude oil 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 below, carbon atoms are black and hydrogen atoms are white.

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

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.

Other useful substances made from compounds found in crude oil include: