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The Petroleum Resource Page

Petroleum has been used since Egyptian times for lamp oil; however, they had no conception of the wealth of products that could be developed when petroleum was refined and processed. In 1859, Edwin Drake drilled the first oil well and revealed a glimpse of all the extraordinary products petroleum could supply. Frank and Charles Duryea constructed the first American automobile using gasoline as a fuel in the 1890's and kindled a love affair among Americans, gasoline, and other petroleum derivatives. Modern populations comprehend the limited supply of petroleum and are researching alternatives to replace petroleum and petroleum-derived products.

What It Is

Petroleum is a fossil fuel which, when processed, provides indispensable products like gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, kerosene, and other fuels. It is created from the remains, or fossils, of plants, animals, and insects. The term petroleum usually refers to crude oil, but can also include natural gas. Both contain a mixture of hydrocarbons, and its composition (liquid or gas) depends on the subsurface conditions.

Composition, Chemistry, and Formation

The composition, chemistry, and formation of petroleum are complex subjects. The types of hydrocarbons in crude oil are typically cycloalkanes, alkanes, and aromatic hydrocarbons, while the organic components are usually sulfer, nitrogen, and oxygen. The color of crude oil is highly dependent on its composition, which varies greatly.

Crude Oil

Crude oil, a fossil fuel, is ordinarily found underground and occurs naturally. Oil wells are used to dig for and bring crude oil to the Earth's surface. It is then refined and processed to produce byproducts like petroleum.


Crude oil is classified based on two criteria; where it is produced and how much sulfur it contains. Price is determined by classification.

Petroleum Industry

The petroleum industry handles all modalities of finding and bringing to market petroleum products. Providing a consistent supply of fuels is the major focus of the petroleum industry, but continuing research and exploration to find new sources of crude oil are vital as well.

  • Oil and Gas – The petroleum industry’s online news journal.


Mankind has used petroleum from ancient times to present. As transportation sources using petroleum fuels increased, so did the demand for petroleum. As a nation, America is very dependent on a steady supply of petroleum to keep the country running.


Why are fuel costs so high? Ask ten people this question and you will receive ten different answers that will probably all come down to the same fact: supply and demand. As oil supplies dwindle, costs rise. Research to find new fuel sources and alternatives drive costs; the cost of fuel must rise or decrease based on economics and supply and demand factors.

Fuels and Other Derivatives

Fuels like petroleum produce interesting derivatives – just think about the moisturizing properties of petroleum jelly. Did you know countless cosmetics depend on petroleum as a basic ingredient? Medical devices like heart valves and contact lenses, fabric, and even inks are all byproducts of petroleum.

Automotive Gasoline

The need for gasoline to fuel automobiles is huge. Due to steadily decreasing fossil fuel supplies, many car manufacturers are developing vehicles powered by gasoline alternatives like ethanol or electricity.

  • Automotive Gasoline - FAQs about where gasoline comes from, composition of gasoline, and common additives.
  • California Gasoline Data – Fact sheet on prices, ways to save on gasoline, problems and concerns and other issues.

Consumption and Production

As Americans, we realize consumption of petroleum is growing faster than supply. Many fear that as a nation, we will exhaust our fossil fuel supplies before sustainable renewable sources are developed. While many of these means of alternative fuel are still under development or experimental, we have come a long way in finding alternatives to gasoline and petroleum.

Environmental Effects

The true environmental effects of fuels such as petroleum are still unknown, but years of research have provided much data regarding the effects. Damage to wildlife from oil spills is undeniable, as is water pollution. On-going research and efforts to minimize the environmental impact of petroleum are necessary.

Petroleum Alternatives

Environmental concerns as well as fears of shortages drive the search for economical and eco-friendly petroleum alternatives. Bio-fuels such as ethanol or bio-diesel are proving to be good alternative fuel sources.

  • Alcohol as Fuel – A look at using alcohol as a motor fuel.
  • Bio-fuels – The pros and cons of bio-fuels as a petroleum alternative.
  • Ethanol – Article contrasting the benefits versus the disadvantages of ethanol as an alternative fuel source.
  • Ethanol as Gas Substitute – Report of study on ethanol as fuel.

Research Organizations, Institutions, and Universities

Research is ongoing in the petroleum industry for more efficient ways to provide the energy needs of a constantly growing consumer base. This increased research activity is combined with a growing need for qualified professionals to help with research and development.


The petroleum industry is complex and varied. There is much to learn about petroleum, from the chemical aspects to its products and derivatives. The petroleum industry is one of the most hotly debated and most researched areas in science today.

Professional Societies and Consortia

Most industries, like the petroleum industry, have a group of professional societies or consortia with which they are affiliated. These societies provide educational, networking, and career opportunities for the professionals in that field. Such groups may even provide certifications to professionals like petroleum engineers and researchers.

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