What is Petroleum: Definition and 40 Discussions

Petroleum (), also known as crude oil and oil, is a naturally occurring, yellowish-black liquid found in geological formations beneath the Earth's surface. It is commonly refined into various types of fuels. Components of petroleum are separated using a technique called fractional distillation, i.e. separation of a liquid mixture into fractions differing in boiling point by means of distillation, typically using a fractionating column. It consists of naturally occurring hydrocarbons of various molecular weights and may contain miscellaneous organic compounds. The name petroleum covers both naturally occurring unprocessed crude oil and petroleum products that are made up of refined crude oil. A fossil fuel, petroleum is formed when large quantities of dead organisms, mostly zooplankton and algae, are buried underneath sedimentary rock and subjected to both intense heat and pressure.
Petroleum has mostly been recovered by oil drilling. Drilling is carried out after studies of structural geology, sedimentary basin analysis, and reservoir characterisation. Recent improvements to technologies have also led to exploitation of other unconventional reserves such as oil sands and oil shale. Once extracted, oil is refined and separated, most easily by distillation, into numerous products for direct use or use in manufacturing, such as gasoline (petrol), diesel and kerosene to asphalt and chemical reagents used to make plastics, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. Petroleum is used in manufacturing a wide variety of materials, and it is estimated that the world consumes about 100 million barrels each day. Petroleum production can be extremely profitable and was important for economic development in the 20th century, with some countries, so called "oil states", gaining significant economic and international power because of their control of oil production.
Petroleum exploitation has significant negative environmental and social consequences. Most significantly, extraction, refining and burning of petroleum fuels all release large quantities of greenhouse gases, so petroleum is one of the major contributors to climate change. Furthermore, parts of the petroleum industry actively suppressed science and policy that aimed to prevent the climate crisis. Other negative environmental effects include the environmental impacts of exploration and exploitation of petroleum reserves, such as oil spills, and air and water pollution at the sites of utilization. All of these environmental impacts have direct health consequences for humans. Additionally, oil has also been a source of conflict leading to both state-led-wars and other kinds of conflicts (for example, oil revenue funded the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). Production of petroleum is expected to reach peak oil before 2040 as global economies reduce dependencies on petroleum as part of climate change mitigation and a transition towards renewable energy and electrification. This is expected to have significant economic impacts that stakeholders argue need to be anticipated by a just transition and addressing the stranded assets of the petroleum industry.

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  1. astroman707

    Do petroleum engineers struggle with ethical dilemmas?

    Petroleum engineers are smart, educated individuals. Therefore, I’d assume they’re well aware of the environmental impacts caused by the work they do. Do they ever struggle with any ethical issues regarding the matter? Is it the money? Is it the possibility of making oil drilling processes more...
  2. N

    Programs Undergraduate Minors that are helpful for petroleum industry careers

    I am currently a Sophomore, studying chemical engineering at Drexel University. After college, I want to pursue a career in the downstream petroleum industry. However, I am unsure of what minor would help me get closer to reaching my goal. I have heard business and mathematics minors are great...
  3. Aestheticia

    Methane as a substitute for petroleum in combustion engines

    Dear engineering community: For many years now I have wondered why our internal combustion engines have not been adapted for methane in place of the various forms of petroleum products we currently use. Why? (1) Because we have a gargantuan ever-renewing source of methane in human garbage...
  4. M

    Liquefied Petroleum Gas (GLP) Volume in Tanm

    Hello. I am having some trouble with a work related problem. I have a GLP tank of 5000 litres capacity, and we actually have a pressure gauge on it measuring that the gas pressure on top of the liquid is above tolerance. Based only on that data, we need to measure the volume that is being taken...
  5. S

    How Dangerous is Petroleum Ether?

    Please forgive me, I have no idea about this subject/topic at all. My job requires me to degrease metal components from time to time. I currently use Petroleum Ether in small quantities in a glass bowl to wash components with. I have had no side effects so far but after looking at the label...
  6. jorcesca

    Become a Petroleum Engineer: Computer Engineering & Geology/Geophysics Major

    Will a major in computer engineering and a minor in geology (leaning towards geophysics) give me the necessary qualifications and a competitive applicant for a position as a petroleum engineer should i not be employed as a computer engineer
  7. jorcesca

    Programs Combining Computer Hardware & Geoscience: A Path to Petroleum Engineering

    thoughts on a major in computer hardware engineering and a minor in geology maybe geophysics something that would give me the oil and gas extraction qualification to be a petroleum engineer or a computer hardware engineer?
  8. J

    Engineering Transition from Physics to Engineering?

    Hi there! I'm currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Physics with minors in both Applied Math & Chemistry and am considering a career in engineering. Now, before all of you engineers jump my case about physics isn't engineering or whatever, please be mindful I'm here for help about my...
  9. iwantcalculus

    How long will the petroleum industry be profitable?

    As we can see now, oil prices are falling pretty forcefully, and it seems like they are heading for $30. Now of course a lot of people ask: "when will petroleum collapse?" And they usually mean due to renewable, sustainable, and nuclear energy for electricity and cars. The "more knowledgeable"...
  10. A

    Engineering Geology vs. Petroleum engineering

    I'm not sure which one to choose so it all comes down to job prospects and pay. In the future, which is more likely to have better job prospects and a higher pay?
  11. B

    Interview for Petroleum Geophysics

    I am coming towards the end of my undergraduate degree in Physics with Astrophysics and have recently been applying for taught MSc courses in Petroleum/Exploration Geophysics. I have no experience in Geology whatsoever although I know that many physics undergrads are accepted onto these...
  12. J

    Geophysics vs. Petroleum Engineering

    I am currently a Molecular Biology major at The University of Texas at Dallas, but I am thinking about switching to Geosciences with an emphasis on Geophysics, only because the school doesn't offer a Petroleum Engineering Degree. Is this a good substitute? I would then go on to finish a Masters...
  13. H

    Programs Double major Physics and Petroleum Engineering

    I'm starting my Associates this summer in Physics and Mechanical Engineering. I have a BS and MS in accounting but science was always my first love so I'm starting all over again. I'm pursuing the double degree because I currently work as an accountant for an oil and gas company and the...
  14. F

    Schools Majoring in Petroleum Engineering, No Physics in High School

    I am attending TAMU this fall hoping to major in petroleum engineering. The problem is though that I never took AP physics B or C in high school. I did take Physics PAP junior year and received an excellent grade, but I still feel like I didn't learn a thing in the class. This senior year I...
  15. Feodalherren

    Engineering Explore Petroleum Engineering: Job Duties, Salaries & More

    I've recently become interested in switching majors from Math to Petroleum engineering. I have no idea what one would do as a petroleum engineer though. I realize that it's very restricting location wise but that's about it. The pay is good right out of college but my idea with a degree in...
  16. C

    At what temperature does Petroleum burn?

    At what temperature does Petroleum burn? Can you name any other common house hold oils which burn, and at what temperature? I'm also interested in the fuel you use to start a campfire with coal.
  17. J

    Safety precautions to be taken in fractional distillation of petroleum

    Homework Statement My textbook states that one of the safety precautions to be taken in the fractional distillation of petroleum(in school laboratory) is using a small flame to heat the rocksil(rocksil is soaked with petroleum),and avoil using stationary flame for heating. Can anyone explain...
  18. S

    Engineering Petroleum and Aerospace Engineering DifferenceS

    Hi, I am trying to decide between Aerospace and Petroleum engineering an dwas looking for what the differences in the jobs are. Things like work environment, pay, travel, degrees needed, and prospective outlook of each field. Also can a bachelors degree suffice or is a masters needed and are...
  19. A

    Problems for Robotics in Petroleum Engineering

    Hey guys, I'm looking to do a robotics/mechatronics project (topic still not decided), and I'd like to focus on a problem within petroleum engineering. However, I'm not too experienced within petroleum production (more of a robotics background), and I'm looking for areas where robotics are...
  20. S

    Engineering Physicist or Petroleum Engineer?

    I'm currently in a dilemma on which career I should pursue. I am a college undergraduate with an undecided major. I'm pretty proficient in math and science, so academics is not the problem. The problem is, I come from a pretty poor family, and I want to get a career as soon as I can to help...
  21. Y

    Petroleum or Aerospace Engineering? I'm torn.

    I'm currently a transfer student with about freshman equivalent credits. I'm taking all the basic classes required for most engineering degrees (Calc I-III, Chemistry, English, Physics, etc). I am now at the point where I NEED to decide which one I want to do. I have a deep love for space and...
  22. S

    Career/Degree Adice; Petroleum vs General

    This is unfortunately going to be a very broad question, but I'll do my best to specify. Background: I went to engineering school (Colorado School of Mines) out of high school (2008 grad) because I didn't know what else to do. I'd been there before, and thought it was a good engineering...
  23. H

    Petroleum engineering maths help

    Hi guys. I am having trouble with my petroleum engineering course. I have attached the example that's giving me problems, start at 1.1.1 limits and just read through to the second pic where it states that the graph at 3 sec shows a height of -96.522ft and at 2 and 4 secs the height is at...
  24. G

    Engineering Petroleum Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, or Aerospace Engineer?

    Petroleum Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, or Aerospace Engineer?? Moderator's note: several related threads have been merged into one. Hi, I am trying to decide between these majors. I am going to be a Senior in High School next year. I live in Washington State. If I was a petroleum...
  25. N

    Organic Chemistry Petroleum Fractions

    Homework Statement Why is petrol suitable to be used as a fuel whereas lubricating oil is more suited to lubricate machine joints? Homework Equations The Attempt at a Solution Petrol has a low boiling point. It combusts more easily to provide energy to the car. However...
  26. S

    Engineering Petroleum engineering and other engineering questions

    as i want to be focused more on physics than in chemistry (understanding that i need the knowledge of both on an engineering career), i want to ask if petroleum engineering focuses a lot on chemistry or not and, do all or a vast majority of Canadian universities offer the option to declare...
  27. M

    Geophysical or Petroleum Engineering?

    I am having a hard time choosing which major I will have at the Colorado School of Mines. Mines is only one of two schools that offer a Geophysical Engineering major in the US, so it is difficult to look up opinions on PF regarding that degree. Petroleum Engineering is also sort of a niche...
  28. N

    Petroleum Engineering vs Chemical?

    Hi All, I'm currently deciding on what to major in - my top 2 choices are chemical and petroleum engineering. I slightly favor petroleum engineering, but I am not sure whether it would be a good idea to go into it at this stage since I am uncertain about the future of the oil industry. I...
  29. A

    How Much Oil Does US Agriculture Use?

    All this recent talk of peak oil, high oil prices, etc, it made me wonder, in the US how much oil does agriculture use, excluding packaging, refrigeration, transportation?
  30. B

    Engineering Help Guys - Petroleum Engineering

    Hey, I am a British Undergad student in Mechanical Engineering at a world top 100 university. However, I do not want to stay in this country as an engineer, the remuneration & the way society treats you is crap. I would like to do an MS in Petroleum Engineering in the US then work/live in...
  31. P

    How petroleum is formed in the earth?

    I heard a whole show on Science Fridays on NPR that basically stated that we do not really know. Most people assume its decaying organic material, but the Russians and some other scientists have created all sorts of hydrocarbons in the lab with water, Carbonate in rocks, and iron or other common...
  32. P

    Engineering Petroleum Engineering: Future, Admissions & More

    we all know about mechanical engineering,electrical engineering,civil engineering...etc... But what about petroleum engineering? the Future of petroleum engineering is good or bad? can we get the admission in petroleum engineering?
  33. A

    Schools Finding the Right Petroleum Engineering College for Career Goals

    I am looking to transfer to a petroleum engineering college. I am not sure which ones I should apply for. So I have a few questions: Which petroleum engineering universities do the big oil companies like Exxon, Shell, Chevron and BP prioritize their recruiting from? Also, for example, if I...
  34. X

    Distinguish between polyunsaturated vegetable oil and petroleum oil

    1. Which of the following chemical reaction could be used to Distinguish between polyunsaturated vegetable oil and petroleum oil containing a mixture of saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbon? Explain your answer. i.addition of bromine in CCl4 ii. hydrogenation iii.saponification iv.ozonolysis...
  35. S

    Mining or Petroleum Engineering: Deciding a Career Path

    I'm currently in 3'rd year mining engineering at a Canadian university, there is no actual "Petroleum Engineering" program here, it is done as a Mining degree with a petroleum option. I'm more interested in the petroleum side of the industry, but with the current situation concerning the oil...
  36. Ivan Seeking

    News What is the Optimal Minimum Price for Petroleum?

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/environment/july-dec08/energytech_07-07.html True or not, it is clear that any serious move away from our depedence on oil requires that the price of fuel be high. So, should a minimum price be set for petroleum so that, first, alternatives to petroleum can...
  37. D

    Career in Petroleum: Questions from a High School Student

    hello, I'm a yr12 high school student looking into many career options. Petroleum engineering attracts me the most as it seems to offer great pay and opportunity to travel. But these questions are bugging me about this profession: 1. What would happen to these engineers when oil run out...
  38. Z

    Petroleum or Electronics Engineering?

    What do you think is the best area to specialize in both? What are the major PROS AND CONS in both majors?
  39. M

    Acetone derived from conventional petroleum?

    Would Acetone be considered to be derived from conventional petroleum? In the truest sense of the term "derived from conventional petroleum" I have to answer the question yes or no so a final yes or know in the end would be very helpful. I know that acetone (dimethyl ketone) is produced...
  40. S

    Synthesizing Petroleum Oil from Plants: A Feasibility Study

    An idea I had some weeks ago is genetically engineered plants that synthesize petroleum oil from hydrogen and carbon. If the need for such a thing was upon us in the next few years, how hard would it be to create oil-gourds, bamboo, algae etc.? Also to what level could huge fields of such plants...