Crude oil was formed millions of years ago. Warm, salty waters of ancient seas were ideal for the development of millions of passively floating or weakly swimming tiny plant life and minute animals of a body of water, known as planktons. Plankton is a diverse collection of various organisms that live in large bodies of water and are unable to swim against the current in the water. They provide a crucial source of food to many large aquatic organisms, such as fish and whales. Years of decayed plankton accumulated on sea beds decomposed and in time, they become covered with slit and sand. The remains of planktons provided the organic material from which crude oil and gas were developed.
Heat, pressure, chemical action, and time changed soil sediments into rocks, and the organic material to droplets of crude oil and gas. As the earth’s surface shrank, rock layers wrinkled and folded. The soil sediments as we’ll call it are known as fossil fuels, a source-derivative for crude oil and gas. Drops of crude oil and gas made their way along the porous strata and were often trapped, wrinkled in a fold. On this stage, water and gas pressure have forced the crude oil into a dome-like structure of harder stones.
The Formation Process
Graphical representations and pictures of the stages the soil sediments or fossil fuels formed millions of years ago are discovered, explored and extracted into crude oil and refined into petroleum by-products are best shown below:
Sedimentary rocks are formed by the accumulation of sediments at the earth’s surface and within bodies of water. Common sedimentary rocks include crude oil refined into petroleum by-products.
Over the years of science and engineering progress, crude oil refining developed to produce more petroleum by-products as the refining process evolved. The by-products becomes more useful as technological breakthroughs came into place over the decades, over the past two centuries were sources of good quality crude oil became very high in demand.
The Crude Oil
On the quality of crude oil, there is sweet crude oil as opposed to sour crude oil when it is referenced to the crude oil’s sulfur content. In the extraction stage, prospectors in the early days would taste, as in literally taste, the crude to determine its quality, with low sulfur oil actually tasting sweet. Crude oil is considered sweet if it contains less than 0.5% of sulfur. Sweet crude oil is easier to refine and safer to extract and transport than sour crude. Because sulfur is corrosive, sweet crude oil causes less damage to refineries and thus results to lower maintenance cost over time.
On the other hand, sour crude oil will have sulfur contents greater than 0.5% and some of these types of oil will be in the form of hydrogen sulfide and also contains more carbon dioxide. Hydrogen sulfide is dangerous to health causing respiratory and nerve damage. Exposure to high concentrations of hydrogen sulfide is instantly fatal – causing chronic fatigues, headaches, dizziness, memory problems, serious respiratory problems and even birth defects. Thus, extracting this type of sour crude oil, given its quality having high contents of hydrogen sulfide, needs to be stabilized and needs additional processes for the removal of the hydrogen sulfide before it can be transported by oil tankers.
Sweet crude oil are commonly found in the Appalachian Basin in Eastern North America, Western Texas, the Bakken Formation of North Dakota and Saskatchewan, the North Sea of Europe, North Africa, Australia, and the Far East including Indonesia. Sour crude oil are commonly found in Gulf Mexico, Mexico, South America and Canada. It is said, Crude oil produce by the OPEC nations tend to be relatively sour with an average sulfur content of 1.77%. Thus, after the discovery of potential crude oil and gas basins, governments, investors and the oil companies hope and pray for the location’s abundance in sweet crude in the exploration stage.
The Refining Process
In the refining stage, that is crude oil free from hydrogen sulfide with acceptable levels of carbon dioxides are now fed into the fractioning tower in the refinery plant, each feed of crude oil ranges in quality from light crude oil to and heavy crude oil and these ranges of feeds which determine the by-product in the refining process. Light grades of crude oil will yield Industrial Fuel Oil which is a very practical product to use as fuel at the same time that oils the various parts of a large engine. This product is usually used for heavy machineries in large factories, Heating and Diesel Fuels which are mostly applicable to boilers and for larger vehicles that are diesel engines, Jet Fuels and Kerosene and Gasoline which nowadays are sold to public in varying octane rating levels.
On the other end, heavier grades are reined into more solid by-products such as waxes, lubricating oils, greases, petroleum coke and asphalts usually used in third class or residential roads.
Shale gasses are found in the upper sedimentary earth layers trapped within shale formations. They are fine-grained sedimentary rocks that are rich sources of petroleum products and natural gas. and does not undergo refining treatment like crude oil. It is popularly known as natural gas that is trapped within fin-grained shale formations that are rich sources of petroleum and natural gas. Natural gas is cleaner in burning than the by-products of lighter crude oils. The combustion of natural gas emits significantly lower carbon dioxides and other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides. Nowadays, especially in the United States, technological advances are on its way to more efficiently extract shale gases underground making current technologies, hydraulic fracturing or conventional gas reservoir, economically viable and which will not impair the environment.
Although we do not intend to explore the vast knowledge of the origins of petroleum products, a bit of such knowledge leads us on its uses especially its application on vehicles which are practically used in our daily lives. And moving-on, we’ll be touching the surface of product knowledge.